Mining Magnates Hired Black Cube for Evidence on Former Lawyer

Jan. 23, 2020, 5:53 PM

Billionaire mining magnates hired private intelligence firm Black Cube for a surveillance operation on their former U.K. criminal lawyer as they continued their attempt to stifle one of the country’s biggest bribery investigations.

Eurasian Natural Resources Corp., which is owned by a trio of eastern European billionaires, said it asked Black Cube to gather information to help it prepare a lawsuit against its former criminal attorney, Neil Gerrard. He is the global co-head of Dechert LLP’s white collar and securities litigation practice and the company accused him of leaking confidential material to prosecutors.

The revelation lifts the curtain on ENRC’s use of private eyes as it tries to insulate itself from a seven-year bribery investigation by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office. The agency is looking into allegations that the firm paid bribes to obtain valuable mining operations in Democratic Republic of Congo. ENRC has filed lawsuits against the SFO, Gerrard, Dechert and others as it tries to stymie the probe, alleging it is the result of collusion between Gerrard and the SFO.

Shares of ENRC, once among the 100 most-valuable companies on the London Stock Exchange, plummeted after the SFO probe was announced in 2013. The owners took private and moved its mines into a separate company called Eurasian Resources Group, which isn’t under investigation. Gerrard and Dechert say they uncovered evidence of fraud and corruption at ENRC, and say that’s why ENRC took an aggressive approach.

The mining firm, owned by Alexander Machkevitch, Alijan Ibragimov and Patokh Chodiev, denies any wrongdoing.

Black Cube is run by former Israeli spies and allegedly followed journalists looking into film producer Harvey Weinstein.

ENRC admitted to hiring the firm in its Jan. 20 defense against harassment allegations Gerrard filed last October. Gerrard alleges that ENRC harassed him and his wife by getting private eyes to watch them. ENRC also said it hired Diligence International, a company similar to Black Cube.

Spokespeople for Diligence, Dechert and Gerrard declined to comment. A Black Cube employee declined to comment. A spokesman for ENRC didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment.

Gerrard alleged that Diligence operatives followed him on a holiday to a private island in St. Lucia, installed a motion-triggered camera monitoring his home near London and spied on him during a lunch meeting close to his office.

ENRC and Diligence, which also filed its defense to Gerrard’s claim, said they wouldn’t givei details of their operations, because they were subject to legal privilege and might feed into a ENRC’s lawsuit against Dechert and Gerrard. Both deny breaking the law.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Franz Wild in London at fwild@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

Christopher Elser, Lynn Thomasson

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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