Today we are publishing the letter we received from the Serious Fraud Office in response to one sent by Spotlight in February this year asking them to confirm what assessment they have made of what proceeds of crime there may be in the UK resulting from the Unaoil bribery scandal. We wrote about why we had done this and the issues it raised in February here.
The SFO’s letter highlights the limitations that were put on the SFO’s ability to take action by the US entering into resolutions with the Ahsanis – all of whom are UK citizens – and confirms that the SFO did consider a civil recovery action in relation to the case but decided this was not feasible “in all the circumstances of this case.”
This is disappointing – a robust civil recovery action by the SFO into Ahsani and Unaoil assets in the UK would have shown that the SFO were serious about ensuring a level of accountability for the senior executives of the firm who were allegedly the architects of the global bribery scheme. It is also disappointing that law enforcement bodies are as a rule very opaque about their reasons for not pursuing investigations or enforcement actions, making it almost impossible for the public to hold them to account for lack of action.