SFO wins Court of Appeal ruling in share sale case

SFO wins Court of Appeal ruling in share sale case

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has won a court ruling over its bid to freeze £4.4 million from a diplomat's wife over allegations of corruption relating to the sale of shares.

Ikram Mahamat Saleh, the wife of the former deputy chief of mission for Chad in the USA, has had the cash frozen after it was credited to an account at the Royal Bank of Scotland in the name of Computershare Investor Services Plc.

The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the SFO after an appeal by Saleh against a  freezing order made in respect of the £4.4m plus interest, the proceeds from the sale of 800,000 shares in a Canadian oil and gas company Caracal Energy Inc, formerly Griffiths Energy International Inc.

The Canadian company pleaded guilty in 2013 to corruption charges in Canada and was fined.  There are also ongoing proceedings in the US.

Saleh argued that a Canadian court order which accepted her to be innocent of complicity in any indictable offence, precluded the SFO's actions.

On that basis she argued that the Canadian court order meant her shares were neither crime related proceeds nor offence related property. 

The SFO countered that the acquisition of the shares was part of a series of corrupt transactions, which involved personnel and companies connected to the diplomatic staff at the Chadian Embassy in Washington DC in order to promote and secure its commercial interests in Chad.

Saleh first challenged the order in July 2015, and a judgment was handed down the same month by Justice Andrews DBE in favour of the SFO, which said the Canadian Order did not have this effect.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the ruling by Justice Andrews.

The ruling means the SFO will now continue its pursuit of a civil recovery order against Saleh.