Serious Fraud Office ordered to pay £7m legal bill after failed prosecution involving Caerphilly-based firm
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has been ordered to pay a £7 million legal bill after a failed prosecution against a Caerphilly-based mining firm.
Six people were accused of a multi-million fraud including former Cardiff City chief executive Alan Whiteley and former directors of Celtic Energy Ltd, Richard Walters and Leighton Humphreys.
They were charged with conspiracy to defraud Neath Port Talbot, Bridgend, and Powys councils along with the Coal Authority, but the case was thrown out in February last year with a judge at Cardiff Crown Court declaring that no law had been broken.
It was alleged the men were planning to set up a company in the British Virgin Islands to transfer the leases of four Welsh opencast mines owned by Celtic Energy. The SFO claimed it was to avoid having to restore the opencast sites once the mines had come to the end of their working lives.
Now the SFO is facing the legal bill for the defendants after a ruling by London’s High Court.
Mr Justice Hickinbottom ordered the SFO to pay the huge bill, which is around 25% of its annual budget, stating its case against the men was based on poor legal analysis.
The SFO, which disputes the costs ruling, said it was considering possible avenues for appeal.
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