By Kirstin Ridley
LONDON (Reuters) – The head of the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was on Tuesday accused of “very, very basic errors in litigation” and hiding behind a review into the agency’s failings in a tetchy grilling by lawmakers.
Lisa Osofsky said she was duty bound to wait for the recommendations of former High Court judge David Calvert-Smith before being drawn on how two convictions in the high-profile Unaoil bribery prosecution were quashed by the Court of Appeal.
Calvert-Smith was appointed by the Attorney General in February to launch a forensic review into SFO failings – and Osofsky said the agency wanted to cooperate fully, learn the lessons and improve.
“We want to learn, we want to learn to do better, we want to hear his recommendations and respond to them,” she told the parliamentary committee. “But at this point … I am not in a position to answer anything further in regard to that case.”
Paul Bond and Ziad Akle, jailed in Britain over how oil contracts were secured in post-occupation Iraq, had their convictions overturned after senior judges ruled that disclosure failures had rendered their trials unfair.
The Court of Appeal ruled in December that the SFO had refused to hand documents to the defence that showed “wholly inappropriate” contact between senior SFO officers and David Tinsley, a U.S.-based fixer with vested interests.
Osofsky was asked to explain why she has said she only twice met Tinsley – who Akle’s legal team said had put pressure on him to plead guilty although he did not represent him – when Tinsley had said he had met her nine times.
“I am going to gladly and willingly explain everything to Sir David,” she said.
Calvert-Smith is expected to publish the findings of his review, which is due to run until the end of May.
(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Mark Potter)