Probe was part of a larger 10-year investigation into corruption at ENRC

A British lawyer, William Osmond, was found guilty of “tipping off” his client about a money laundering investigation that was being conducted by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). The case was part of a larger 10-year probe into allegations of corruption against Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation PLC (ENRC), a public Kazakh mining company. Its offices are headquartered in London. 

The 10-year investigation was abruptly dropped this past August. It focused on allegations of bribery and fraud relating to ENRC’s acquisition of mining contracts in Africa.

Five years into that investigation, in 2018, Osmond revealed to his client James Ramsay that the SFO had asked Osmond for information about the 2013 purchase of an £8 million property in London. Osmond also forged an engagement letter that indicated that he had been representing Ramsay’s company since 2013. He gave that letter to SFO investigators. 

In possibly the only conviction to emerge from this 10-year probe, Osmond was convicted of one charge of tipping off under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and one charge of forgery. 

Ramsay’s company had provided a £4 million loan for the purchase of the London property. Osmond, a senior partner at London-based Osmond & Osmond, was asked by the SFO to provide information about Ramsay and the purchase of the property, which was linked to the daughter of one of ENRC’s founders.

Prosecutors say that Osmond regularly spoke to Ramsay about the SFO’s inquiries. Osmond went to Malta, where Ramsay was living, a week after he was first contacted by the SFO.

The SFO was investigating the loan as part of its wider probe into ENRC.

Closure of the wider case against ENRC concluded what became a complicated investigation. It also led to a bitter legal battle over the SFO’s handling of the inquiry that, in an ironic twist, led to ENRC, which was co-founded by three Kazakh oligarchs, bringing a £70m lawsuit against the SFO. They alleged that the agency mishandled the investigation. SFO was mostly cleared of wrongdoing in the case last year but there were some aspects of its conduct that were criticised by the judge. The agency is now facing civil proceedings based on ENRC’s claim that the SFO would not have conducted the investigation into the company if the fraud watchdog had not convinced a former ENRC lawyer to act against the company’s interests.

Sentencing will take place on November 30.

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