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180,000 documents: Mishcon brings Israeli billionaire’s judicial review against SFO and Theresa May

Mishcon de Reya’s executive partner James Libson has brought a judicial review against the British Home Secretary Theresa May and the UK Serious Fraud Office for assisting the Guinean government’s probe into Beny Steinmetz’s BSG Resources over bribery and corruption in the country. 

London-based Libson, who is also head of private clients at Mishcon, filed for a judicial review that claims UK bodies offered unlawful assistance to Guinea, carrying out a ‘rubber stamping exercise’ that authorised ‘everything sought by the Guinean authorities’.

It said the SFO requested 180,000 documents from BSG’s law firms Mishcon and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, which would take 1,350 man-hours to prepare at a cost of £330,000. BSG’s adviser Onyx Financial Advisers was also hit with document requests from the SFO, in what Libson described as ‘the most onerous demand for documents ever made by the SFO in relation to obtaining evidence on behalf of a foreign government’.

In assisting with an official request for documents and support from the government of Guinea, where diamond miner BSG is accused of bribing government officials to secure a slice of the untapped iron ore buried in the Simandou mountain range, the company claims that May and the SFO ‘would facilitate an investigation brought in bad faith for political reasons and which will be pursued without regard for fair trial or due process rights of individuals affected’.

The Guinean government, aided by a report produced by UK law firm DLA Piper, alleged that BSG used bribes to secure a mining concession potentially worth $140bn. The company was awarded a 25-year concession in 2010 to mine the Simandou mountain range following a $165m exploration programme in the area.

Libson said in a statement: ‘The UK authorities have a heightened duty in the exercise of their discretion in a case like this. The defendants have not applied that duty properly, if at all. Instead, they have simply waved through the request, ignoring numerous indicators of political influence, and have given effect to it by way of the most draconian measures at their disposal.’

Dag Cramer, director of BSG Resources, added: ‘The witness statements present evidence of the illegal and corrupted practices of multiple parties that have conspired against BSGR. BSGR is the victim of multiple related parties acting independently and in concert to achieve various objectives at the expense of BSGR and the people of Guinea.’

Mishcon’s arbitration partner Karel Daele was instructed earlier this year to sue the Guinean government for $5bn at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) after BSG’s concession was revoked.