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Thursday, 23 February 2012

Seriously Flawed Office

I see Vincent Tchenguiz has received an apology for the SFO for the SFO's issue of a search warrant and investigation into Mr Tchenguiz's dealings with Kaupthing all because the SFO didn't understand the documents they were reading.

When they went to court to obtain a search warrant, the SFO alleged that Mr Tchenguiz had misled the bank over the value of properties used as security for a loan. They also claimed Mr Tchenguiz had failed to tell Kaupthing that there was other more senior debt secured on the property. As it turned out, both statements were wrong and the facts should have been evident from the loan documents which made the position quite clear, but not to the dimwits at the SFO, who according to SFO management were “extremely busy” with a “very large amount of complex information”.

Which doesn't surprise me at all.  I once tangled with the SFO as a witness in a supposed "tax fraud" in another European country (names withheld to protect the innocent). What it actually was was a tax deal which was being challenged by the authorities, and the tax payer won, but somehow the SFO got involved.  What got there beef was that one one day a bank lent a sum of money to a company that bought some equipment from a seller who then deposited the sales proceeds in a deposit at the same bank ... and then the equipment was leased back over several years.

What got the SFO in a stew was that "the money" went round in a circle on day one, with the same amount ending up back at the bank.  This in their view was indicative of a fraud, although they failed to let me know under which statute this felony arose. I tried in vain to make the point that one party had borrowed money and bought an asset, while another had sold an asset and taken it back on a lease and acquired a deposit, while the bank was party to a new loan and deposit, so all parties had radically different balance sheets.  I ended up having to spend quite a few hours in the witness box with the same questioning from counsel for the prosecution, although the judge seemed to think my points were quite acceptable.

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