Appearing before the Justice Committee on 19 October, Lisa Osofsky, Director of the SFO, admitted that she had been taken in by "fixer" David Tinsley, a retired US Drug Enforcement Agent and apologised for meeting with him. At the time of the meeting in 2018, he was considered to be reliable, having been recommended by the FBI and Department of Justice in the US.
The Attorney General (AG) appointed Sir David Calvert-Smith to lead a 'forensic and robust' review into SFO failings, after the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction of Ziad Akle in December 2021 because of serious disclosure failures. Mr Akle had been convicted of two counts of conspiracy to give corrupt payments in connection with the bribing of decision-makers to win crude oil contracts in Iraq. He had been sentenced to five years' imprisonment.
The Court of Appeal heavily criticised the SFO’s conduct, including the failure to disclose key material and improperly providing David Tinsley, acting on behalf of the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer of the Unaoil group of companies and access to the SFO case team, who ultimately engaged with him about the prospect of Mr Akle and another pleading guilty.
The SFO failings meant that Mr Akle did not have a fair trial. His conviction was quashed.
In the Unaoil case, Stephen Whiteley and Paul Bond subsequently had their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal.
The SFO failings in the Unaoil case have exposed the taxpayer to significant costs. The two damning reviews into the SFO disclosure failures have cost almost £450,000 and £2.15m has been paid in costs to Mr Akle. Messrs Whiteley and Bond's costs will follow.
Despite the SFO having had some significant successes, the Unaoil scandal will be very difficult for the Director to shake off and will no doubt be seen as defining her tenure.
The hearing before the Justice Committee can be viewed here.
“Do I regret that I did that? Absolutely. Do I wish I had done things differently? I do."