Nick Clegg is accused of breaching Ministerial Code when he was Deputy PM by requesting details of a bribery inquiry into a company which later became client of his lawyer wife
- Mr Clegg’s action was ‘a clear conflict of interest’ according to legal documents
- His case involves Kazakh mining giant Eurasian Natural Resources Company
- Wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, 50, took on ENRC as a high-value client with
- Gonzalez Durantez’s US firm racked up fees totalling £16 million on the case
Mr Clegg’s action was ‘a clear conflict of interest’, it is claimed in legal documents seen by The Mail on Sunday
Sir Nick Clegg has been accused of breaching the Ministerial Code when he was Deputy Prime Minister by requesting confidential details of a criminal bribery inquiry into a company which weeks later became a client of his lawyer wife Miriam.
Mr Clegg’s action was ‘a clear conflict of interest’, it is claimed in legal documents seen by The Mail on Sunday.
The filing in a US court also accuses him of breaching government protocol by failing to send his request via the Attorney General’s office.
His request for information concerned a Serious Fraud Office case involving Kazakh mining giant Eurasian Natural Resources Company (ENRC) in December 2011.
The SFO briefing sent back to him was marked ‘in anticipation of a possible question’ he might be asked in Parliament. But Hansard records show Mr Clegg was never asked about ENRC in the Commons, nor did he table any other questions.
A month after the letter, Clegg’s wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, 50, took on ENRC as a high-value client upon joining US law firm Dechert LLP as a partner
A month after the letter, his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, 50, took on ENRC as a high-value client upon joining US law firm Dechert LLP as a partner.
Over the next two years, Dechert racked up fees totalling £16 million on the case, with Ms Gonzalez’s time billed at £570 an hour.
These fees are now the subject of a bitter legal dispute between ENRC and Dechert.
Mr Clegg faces being quizzed in a Californian court about his role in the case – just as he takes on a job in Silicon Valley as chief PR adviser for Facebook, reportedly earning £15 million a year.
The US legal ‘docket’ from ENRC’s new lawyers also contains the claim that Ms Gonzalez’s senior colleague and ‘mentor’, Neil Gerrard, boasted to colleagues that through her and Mr Clegg, he could ‘influence and in some cases change’ government policy.
David Cameron (left) and Sir Nick Clegg (right) who was accused of breaching the Ministerial Code when he was Deputy Prime Minister
The papers claim ‘strong evidence’ that Ms Gonzalez and/or Mr Gerrard ‘was in communication with Clegg concerning ENRC as part of Gerrard’s scheme to expand the scope of Dechert’s investigation and thereby increase the fees that Dechert was able to charge’.
Mr Clegg’s alleged role emerged in court papers filed in San Francisco on Friday, applying for him to be subpoenaed to explain his actions.
The SFO briefing had given Mr Clegg a detailed summary of the case and warned it ‘regards its dealings with ENRC plc as confidential… the SFO response to any public or press enquiries has been and remains to neither confirm nor deny any investigation is taking place.’
According to the newly filed documents: ‘There was a clear conflict of interest as a result of Mr Clegg’s wife’s role at Dechert.’
The Ministerial Code states ‘it is the personal responsibility of each Minister to decide whether and what action is needed to avoid a conflict or the perception of a conflict [of interest].’
Mr Clegg, 52, is also accused of flouting protocol by sending his request to the SFO via the Foreign Office, rather than the Attorney General’s Office, which has responsibility for the agency.
The docket also contains a letter sent by a whistleblower to then SFO head, Sir David Green, in July 2012, alleging that a drunken Mr Gerrard boasted to fellow lawyers that via Ms Gonzalez, he had ‘direct access to Nick Clegg and the heads [of] many European governments’.
The letter added that through this route, Mr Gerrard ‘had the ability to influence and in some cases change government policy’.
ENRC denies any corruption and has called for the ongoing SFO inquiry into its activities, which has led to no charges, to be scrapped.
Dechert and Mr Gerrard have denied the claims made by ENRC and the whistleblower and yesterday declined to comment further.
Mr and Mrs Clegg, the SFO, Foreign Office, Attorney General’s Office and Cabinet Office all declined to comment.