U.K.’s SFO slapped down over attempts to flout jurisdiction rules – John Binns speaks to Compliance Week

U.K.’s SFO slapped down over attempts to flout jurisdiction rules – John Binns speaks to Compliance Week

BCL partner John Binns has been quoted in an article from Compliance Week titled ‘U.K.’s SFO slapped down over attempts to flout jurisdiction rules’.

Here’s an extract from the article:

In another blow to the agency’s credibility, the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) cannot attempt to force foreign companies to hand over evidence held overseas, according to a recent court ruling.

The U.K.’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously the SFO breached its authority when it attempted to compel U.S. engineering services company KBR—whose British subsidiary is under investigation for possible bribery and corruption offenses—to supply documents held outside the United Kingdom or face criminal sanction.

Lawyers criticize what they see as another example of the SFO’s heavy-handedness to secure results—in this case by trying to use powers it never had in the first place.

“Enforcers such as the SFO should not be pushing at their limits in this way,” says John Binns, lead partner in the financial crime team at law firm BCL Solicitors. “This is another example in an increasingly long line of cases that demonstrate the SFO’s reach exceeds its grasp.”

In 2017, the SFO announced it had launched an investigation into the U.K. arm of KBR. The subsidiary agreed to cooperate and provided the SFO with documents held in the United Kingdom. Company employees had also flown from the United States to the United Kingdom to help with inquiries.

However, the SFO then attempted to force the U.S. parent company to hand over documents held outside of the United Kingdom using Section 2(3) of the Criminal Justice Act 1987 (known as a “Section 2 notice”). Failure to comply is a criminal offense.

KBR applied for judicial review to quash the notice over concerns the agency was exceeding its powers by being overtly extraterritorial when it had no jurisdiction to do so.

This article was originally published by Compliance Week on 08/02/2021. You can read the full article on their website.

John Binns is a partner at BCL specialising in all aspects of business crime, with a particular interest in confiscation, civil recovery and money laundering under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“POCA”). His business crime experience includes representing suspects, defendants and witnesses in cases invoking allegations of bribery and corruption, fraud (including carbon credits, carousel/MTIC, land-banking, Ponzi and pyramid scheme frauds), insider trading, market abuse, price-fixing, sanctions-busting, and tax evasion. He has coordinated and undertaken corporate investigations and defended in cases brought by BEIS, the FCA, HMRC, NCA, OFT, SFO and others.