Guernsey’s Financial Crime Chief has been accused of malpractice by a corporate criminal as part of the appeal against his conviction on corruption-related charges.
The ongoing case in the UK Court of Appeal relates to the Unaoil bribery scandal, which began in 2010 and culminated last year in jail sentences for two senior Unaoil managers following investigations by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
In court, advocates for the SFO have denied any malpractice or wrongdoing.
Kevin Davis was Chief Investigator at the SFO between 2012 and 2020. He was hired to lead financial crime investigations in Guernsey in February this year.
When Mr Davis was Chief Investigator at the SFO, it led a case against Unaoil, a business based in Monaco with extensive oil interests in the Middle East and elsewhere, which was accused of widespread bribery and corruption in business deals with other multinational companies and senior politicians.
The Unaoil trial ended in July 2020. Ziad Akle, a former territory manager for Unaoil in Iraq, was handed a five-year prison sentence. Another former territory manager in Iraq was sentenced to three years in prison.
But the owners of the company - the Ahsani family - avoided prosecution or received far more lenient sentences.
At the time, Mr Akle, one of the convicted managers, tried to get the case thrown out of court. He has since launched an appeal against his conviction. He alleges that the SFO acted inappropriately in its dealings with a private investigator based in Miami, David Tinsley, who was hired to work for the Ahsani family and was later found to have enjoyed highly inappropriate access to senior SFO officials during the investigation of Unaoil.
At the original trial, Mr Tinsley's involvement as a freelance agent was criticised by the judge and the SFO launched an internal probe which is set to recommence once the current appeal concludes.
According to reports in The Guardian, Adrian Darbishire QC, acting for the appellant, alleged in the Court of Appeal that Mr Davis had intentionally deleted data on his mobile phone which logged interactions with Mr Tinsley, the Miami-based private investigator, and further alleged that these interactions would have proved that Mr Davis and other senior figures at the SFO were “party to an improper and unlawful attempt” to use Mr Tinsley to persuade two defendants to plead guilty.
Mr Davis left the SFO sometime between July 2020 and October 2020 and was hired as Director of Guernsey's Economic and Financial Crime Bureau a few months later.
He was appointed to help the Home Affairs Committee prepare for a crucial inspection by MONEYVAL in 2023. MONEYVAL will examine Guernsey's ability to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Mr Davis has since been responsible for hiring 50 specialist staff for the Guernsey Bureau, the cost of which was not disclosed at a hearing held by the Scrutiny Management Committee this summer.
When Mr Davis was appointed, the President of the Home Affairs Committee, Deputy Rob Prow, celebrated his appointment and said the Director's role was “vitally important.”
Pictured: At the time of Mr Davis' appointment to lead financial crime investigations in Guernsey, the Home Affairs Committee's President said the role was "vitally important in the ongoing fight against serious economic crime."
"Kevin brings extensive experience to his new role which will greatly assist in ensuring we are best prepared to achieve a positive outcome from the forthcoming MONEYVAL inspection, as well as strengthening and future-proofing the Bailiwick’s economic crime investigative capability," said Deputy Prow.
The Committee has said that it will not be commenting on developments in the court case.
“While it would be inappropriate to comment on allegations made against the SFO and its senior executives on matters still before the Court of Appeal, the Committee can confirm it is aware of this issue,” said Mr Le Ray.
The Court of Appeal has reserved its judgement on Akle's appeal and should announce a decision by the end of the year.
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