Billionaire mining magnates hired private intelligence firm Black Cube for a surveillance operation on their former U.K. criminal lawyer as they continued their attempt to stifle one of the country’s biggest bribery investigations.
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp., which is owned by a trio
of eastern European billionaires, said it asked Black Cube to
gather information to help it prepare a lawsuit against its
former criminal attorney, Neil Gerrard. He is the global co-head
of Dechert LLP’s white collar and securities litigation practice
and the company accused him of leaking confidential material to
The revelation lifts the curtain on ENRC’s use of private
eyes as it tries to insulate itself from a seven-year bribery
investigation by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office. The agency is
looking into allegations that the firm paid bribes to obtain
valuable mining operations in Democratic Republic of Congo. ENRC
has filed lawsuits against the SFO, Gerrard, Dechert and others
as it tries to stymie the probe, alleging it is the result of
collusion between Gerrard and the SFO.
Shares of ENRC, once among the 100 most-valuable companies
on the London Stock Exchange, plummeted after the SFO probe was
announced in 2013. The owners took private and moved its mines
into a separate company called Eurasian Resources Group, which
isn’t under investigation. Gerrard and Dechert say they
uncovered evidence of fraud and corruption at ENRC, and say
that’s why ENRC took an aggressive approach.
The mining firm, owned by Alexander Machkevitch, Alijan
Ibragimov and Patokh Chodiev, denies any wrongdoing.
Black Cube is run by former Israeli spies and allegedly
followed journalists looking into film producer Harvey
ENRCadmitted to hiring the firm in its Jan. 20 defense
against harassment allegations Gerrard filed last October.
Gerrard alleges that ENRC harassed him and his wife by getting
private eyes to watch them. ENRC also said it hired Diligence
International, a company similar to Black Cube.
Spokespeople for Diligence, Dechert and Gerrard declined to
comment. A Black Cube employee declined to comment. A spokesman
for ENRC didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail seeking
Gerrard alleged that Diligence operatives followed him on a
holiday to a private island in St. Lucia, installed a motion-
triggered camera monitoring his home near London and spied on
him during a lunch meeting close to his office.
ENRC and Diligence, which also filed its defense to
Gerrard’s claim, said they wouldn’t givei details of their
operations, because they were subject to legal privilege and
might feed into a ENRC’s lawsuit against Dechert and Gerrard.
Both deny breaking the law.