Public LawAfter bungling a search of Tchenguiz's home, Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was hopelessly placed by hanging on to its biggest case hoping something to turn up for them despite having a flawed case, Lord Goldsmith the former attorney general had suggested.
Goldsmith's provocative remarks come as he represents Mayfair property tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz in hearings with the SFO before a full judicial review next month. Tchenguiz has challenged the SFO's probe into suspected corrupt relationships between him, his brother Robert, and former bosses at the Icelandic bank Kaupthing, which collapsed in October 2008. The allegations are denied by all concerned.
The agency was criticized by the senior appeal court Lord Justice Thomas who said that SFO was unable to explain glaring and fundamental errors on search warrants used more than a year ago for raids on Vincent Tchenguiz’s home and London offices and that it was an act of sheer incompetence.
Now the SFO is already getting ready for some unpleasant experience next month from Lord Justice Thomas.
Vincent Tchenguiz is seeking damages of considerably more than £100m, over three times the SFO's annual budget. His brother too has won a judicial review.
Both brothers, together with a handful of former Kaupthing bankers, were targeted in dawn raids involving more than 130 police officers in March last year as part of co-ordinated searches in London and Reykjavik.
In February the SFO conceded that the warrant used in the search of Vincent Tchenguiz home and Park Lane office was hopelessly flawed.
A full explanation of how investigators had got the warrant so wrong has been demanded by Thomas before next month's judicial review, but a reeling SFO – which has, separately, seen suggestions about its dissolution resurface – has repeatedly pleaded for more time.
This month, Thomas lost patience after being told once again that the prosecutors wanted an extension, in part because Alderman had chosen to take a trip to Tanzania on other matters rather than focus on the crisis at hand.
The episode marks an embarrassing end for Alderman, suggesting the SFO boss had been eager to clear up the matter of the search warrant before he departed.
The only large investigation launched during Alderman's tenure has been the probe into Kaupthing. It remains to be seen whether incoming boss David Green QC will share Alderman's determination to press ahead with the Tchenguiz case.
Even if lord Justice Thomas rules that the integrity of the investigation had not been entirely compromised, Green may yet choose to draw the troublesome case to a close, as Alderman did with a number of cases shortly after his appointment.
It is expected that when Thomas next month delivers his verdict it would be harsh on the conduct of the agency.