SA’s trade partners embroiled in nasty spat over alleged abuse of UN resources
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Johannesburg - South Africa’s trade partners, the UK and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are in a nasty entanglement, with the UK accused of abusing the UN’s scarce resources in secret probe.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in the UK is fingered in abusing UN resources in a clandestine investigation they are running against Kazakhstan giant mining house ENRC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Star is informed that some SFO officials sneaked into the DRC in April 2021, claiming to be employed by the UN and attempted to collect information and intelligence on ENRC, but their attempts came to naught when it became apparent that they were not UN officials.
“There is a treaty and legislation in place between the DRC and the UK in terms of a pre-agreed Mutual Legal Assistance agreement and that is the process that has to be followed,” an official in the DRC Department of Justice told The Star on condition of anonymity.
“It is not clear why the SFO elected to unofficially and illegally elect to try and get information when there is a legal framework in place. The law says that the SFO needs to formally apply to interview witnesses and obtain information, just like when we (the DRC) are required to do when we need to go to the UK for investigations.
“It is believed that the two SFO officials operated under the guise of the UN, wearing blue helmets and other UN branded clothing, travelled in armed convoy. They were attempting to obtain evidence from local banks and government institutions about a $35 000 000 (R498.7 million) payment that was said to be related to an illegal payment between ENRC and Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler a decade ago. Why don’t they seek our government’s assistance formally?” the official said.
“We are interviewing witnesses who were unlawfully interrogated by them, and if the evidence checks out and our citizens were misled, threatened or offered bribes, we will seek the extradition of the two SFO officials to the DRC,” the official continued.
ENRC is claiming $70m in damages from the SFO, claiming that the SFO illegally persuaded the ENRC lawyer at the time, Neil Gerrard, of internationally acclaimed law firm Dechert, to leak information and evidence to the SFO.
ENRC is seeking relief in a London court for damages for what it terms misfeasance in public office and a breach of fiduciary duty on the part of Gerrard. The matter is on trial currently in the UK.
In a separate claim by ENRC’s lawyers, Quinn Emanual, there is evidence of the leaking of evidence and information by the SFO case controller at the time, John Gibson, to journalists. The said journalist used the documents and information in a subsequent book, Kleptopia, the ENRC lawyers allege.
The Star is still seeking an audience with the UK’s Serious Crimes Office and the ENRC via a Zoom call.
This is a developing story.