The final nail in the Kaupthing coffin at the SFO: the investigation has been closed, due to “lack of evidence.” However, the SFO states in its press release today that the cooperation with the Icelandic Special Prosecutor will continue.
This has been a long and sorry saga after the fateful SFO house searches in March last year. Although several ex-managers of Kaupthing were investigated the main media focus here in the UK was on the Tchenguiz brothers, Vincent and Robert. The investigation into Vincent’s case was dropped this summer, with a full apology from the SFO.
Now, the whole investigation is dropped but no apology. This means that, amongst others, Robert Tchenguiz and ex-chairman of the Kaupthing board are no longer being investigated.
In Iceland, things are going better for the investigators. The Office of the Special Prosecutor has, ia, charged Kaupthing’s second largest shareholder Olafur Olafsson and the Kaupthing managers Sigurdur Einarsson, Hreidar Mar Sigurdsson and Magnus Gudmundsson in connection to loans to Sheikh Mohammad al Thani – loans that were used to buy a 5.1% share in Kaupthing in September 2001. It’s alleged that since Kaupthing financed the deal but let it be known that the Sheikh had much faith in the bank, it was an alleged case of market manipulation and also alleged breach of fiduciary duty as, according to the charges, the managers did not secure a repayment of the loan. The Sheikh has not repaid the loan and is being sued by the Kaupthing Winding-up board for non-repayment.
The interesting difference between the Icelandic OSP charges and the SFO approach is that the OSP charges relate to alleged misconduct of those in charge of the bank, aided by the shareholder. The failed SFO investigation was aimed at alleged suspect customer relationship. It’s much harder to prove that a client who got a good deal was breaking the law than to prove misconduct in issuing loans.
The al Thani case is now starting its journey through the Icelandic court system. In a report (in Icelandic) that Sigurdsson has lodged with the court he refutes all wrong-doing. He states that yes, there might potentially have been a criminal action relating to the al Thani loan – but the possible criminal action related to deeds done by two other employees – Eggert Hilmarsson and Halldor Bjarkar Ludviksson – whereas everything he himself did was complete in accordance with rules and regulation. – The interesting angle here is that Sigurdsson is pointing finger at two colleagues who have cooperated with the Icelandic investigation.
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