The UK Serious Fraud Office has been heavily criticised by the UK Court of Appeal for its conduct in a high-profile case led by Kevin Davis, who is now Guernsey’s financial crime chief.
A criminal conviction resulting from the case has been overturned by three Court of Appeal judges.
The Court was left unclear by evidence Mr Davis provided about certain aspects of the investigation he led.
The Attorney General has now launched an independent review into the investigation.
At the time of the investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, Mr Davis was its Chief Investigator. He left the Serious Fraud Office sometime between July 2020 and October 2020. He was hired as Director of Guernsey's Economic and Financial Crime Bureau a few months later.
The Committee for Home Affairs yesterday backed Mr Davis.
“Home Affairs is aware of the Approved Judgment handed down on 10 December 2021 by the UK Court of Appeal in the case of AKLE and BOND and The Crown,” said Dave Le Ray, the Committee’s Director of Operations.
“Whilst the Judgment was critical of the formal disclosure process undertaken by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), in reaching its Judgment, the Court of Appeal stated: ‘We do not suggest that any individual official of the SFO deliberately sought to cover anything up'."
Pictured: Kevin Davis was appointed to help the Committee for Home Affairs prepare for an inspection by MONEYVAL in 2023.
The case in the Court of Appeal related to the Unaoil bribery scandal, which began in 2010 and culminated last year in jail sentences for two senior Unaoil managers following the investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. Unaoil, a business based in Monaco with extensive oil interests in the Middle East and elsewhere, was accused of widespread bribery and corruption in business deals with other multinational companies and senior politicians.
Ziad Akle, a former territory manager for Unaoil in Iraq, was handed a five-year prison sentence. It is his conviction which has now been overturned by the Court of Appeal. Another former territory manager in Iraq was sentenced to three years in prison.
But the owners of the company - the Ahsani family - avoided prosecution or received far more lenient sentences.
At the time of the original case, Mr Akle tried to get it thrown out of court. He alleged that the Serious Fraud Office acted inappropriately in its dealings with a private investigator based in Miami, David Tinsley, who was hired to work for the Ahsani family. Mr Tinsley was later found to have enjoyed highly inappropriate access to senior officials at the Serious Fraud Office during the investigation of Unaoil.
According to reports in The Guardian, Adrian Darbishire QC, acting for Mr Akle, alleged in the Court of Appeal that Mr Davis had intentionally deleted data on his mobile phone which logged interactions with Mr Tinsley, the Miami-based private investigator, and further alleged that these interactions would have proved that Mr Davis and other senior figures at the SFO were "party to an improper and unlawful attempt" to use Mr Tinsley to persuade two defendants to plead guilty.
Lawyers for the Serious Fraud Office strongly denied any malpractice or wrongdoing.
After Mr Akle won his appeal and saw his conviction overturned, The Guardian reported that “three Court of Appeal judges concluded that the SFO’s failure to disclose vital evidence had unfairly led to the businessman being jailed for bribery”.
Pictured: Deputy Rob Prow, President of the Committee for Home Affairs. At the time of Mr Davis' arrival as Guernsey's financial crime chief, Deputy Prow said that it was a "vitally important" appointment. The Committee's Director of Operations yesterday released a statement backing Mr Davis.
Mr Davis was unable to provide text message conversations between himself and Mr Tinsley. The reason given for this was that he had accidently wiped his phone by inputting his password incorrectly several times.
According to The Guardian, the Court of Appeal Judges said:
“The explanation which has been put forward is that Davis repeatedly entered an incorrect code, which caused data to be wiped from his phone.
“If that explanation is correct, it appears to have been the second time in less than a year that Davis had caused a mobile phone to be wiped and in need of rebuilding.
“Moreover, it would have involved his not only entering the wrong password five times, but doing so despite a specific warning on the phone to contact the service desk.”
Mr Davis was appointed to help the Committee for Home Affairs prepare for a crucial inspection by MONEYVAL in 2023. MONEYVAL will examine Guernsey's ability to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
He has since been responsible for hiring 50 specialist staff for the Guernsey Bureau, the cost of which was not disclosed at a hearing held by the Scrutiny Management Committee this summer.
When Mr Davis was appointed, the President of the Committee for Home Affairs, Deputy Rob Prow, celebrated his appointment and said the Director's role was “vitally important".
"Kevin brings extensive experience to his new role which will greatly assist in ensuring we are best prepared to achieve a positive outcome from the forthcoming MONEYVAL inspection, as well as strengthening and future-proofing the Bailiwick’s economic crime investigative capability," said Deputy Prow.
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