ENRC takes aim at Clegg for allegedly breaching “ministerial code”

The Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) has taken aim at former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, alleging that he requested details of the Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) investigation, shortly before his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez joined Dechert.

An application was filed to the District Court of California where Clegg is now a resident, which could see him face questioning in the High Court over his decision to bypass the Attorney General’s office when asking for that information.

Documents seen by The Lawyer show correspondence between Clegg’s office and former ENRC case controller Mark Thompson.

Ministerial protocol dictates that questions relating to the SFO should be directed to the Attorney General and Clegg could considered in breach of this code by contacting it directly.

It is thought that a US hearing on the ENRC’s application will be heard later this month with a decision expected shortly after.

It is alleged that Clegg’s tie to the case comes through his wife, former Dechert partner Miriam Gonzalez Durantez.

Alongside Dechert global co-head of white-collar and investigations Neil Gerrard, she is though to have advised the ENRC when it became apparent that it could be hit with sanctions. while Gerrard provided white-collar advice during the SFO’s investigation.

Court filings in the US allege that Gerrard said he had “direct access” to Clegg, while inferring that a heightened understanding of the SFO’s investigation would allow the firm opportunity to inflate its fees further.

This new development forms part of its wider claim against the US firm, Gerrard and the SFO.

The Kazakh mining business claims the trio had an “unhealthy relationship” during an investigation into alleged corruption and bribery, dating back to 2011.

At the beginning of Gerrard’s advice, he was a partner at DLA Piper before joining the US firm in 2011 with the ENRC electing to retain his services following the move. Gonzalez, a colleague of Gerrard’s at his former firm, followed later that year.

Among the ENRC’s list of claims against Dechert and Gerrard are allegedly inflated fees totaling £16m, the leaking of documents to The Times newspaper and the improper relationship which stemmed from the July 2012 “whistleblower letter”.

Gonazalez has since left Dechert to join Clegg in the United States. She joined Cohen & Gresser as a partner and will spend her time split between Washington DC and London.

Another former SFO case controller who had ties to the ENRC case, John Gibson, joined Gonzalez’s new firm in September as a partner in its fledgling London office.

It is thought the the ENRC will now be focusing primarily on advancing this claim with sources saying it will “park” its civil dispute with the SFO relating to its continued instruction of Eversheds Sutherland.

Hogan Lovells partner Michael Roberts has been advising the ENRC throughout this litigation, having instructed Fountain Court’s Bankim Thanki QC, Tamara Oppenheimer and Rebecca Loveridge during last year’s blockbuster legal privilege hearing.

QEB Hollis Whiteman silk Sir David Calvert-Smith has now been appointed to oversee the judicial review, though this would now appear to not be the ENRC’s priority case.

The SFO declined to comment. Dechert was approached for comment.

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