SFO Unaoil Convictions Quashed
The Court of Appeal has today handed down its judgment in the appeal of Ziad Akle against his convictions for offences of bribery relating to oil infrastructure projects in Iraq. The Court quashed Mr Akle’s convictions and refused the SFO’s application for a retrial.
The appeal stemmed from the SFO’s engagement with a US-based fixer who had offered to assist the SFO by securing guilty pleas from defendants charged in the Unaoil investigation. The fixer was "certainly enabled, and arguably encouraged" to convey information to defendants whom he did not represent. The Court of Appeal held that it was clearly inappropriate for the SFO to have any dealings with the fixer in relation to the pleas of Mr Akle and his co-accused. Moreover, the Court held that there had been a serious breach of the prosecution's fundamental duty of disclosure in relation to the material recording that conduct. The SFO withheld material from disclosure which had the potential to embarrass the SFO, and the decision to withhold it prevented the defence from putting its case in its best light at trial. As a result of the SFO’s failings, the trial was unfair and the convictions unsafe.
The Court will hear further submissions in the new year as to the SFO’s liability for costs as a result of its improper acts or omissions.
Duncan Jones was instructed for Ziad Akle by Joanna Dimmock, Jonathan Pickworth, Fred Kelly and Tom Hickey of Paul Hastings (Europe) LLP. He was led on appeal by Adrian Darbishire QC and Mark Aldred (QEB Hollis Whiteman).
You can read the full judgment here.