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jR z1 The UK Critical Fraud Workplace’s Extraterritorial Powers Are Clarified | Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP - The Times Hub

The UK Critical Fraud Workplace’s Extraterritorial Powers Are Clarified | Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

The UK Critical Fraud Workplace’s Extraterritorial Powers Are Clarified | Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

After three years of uncertainty over the Critical Fraud Workplace’s (“SFO”) powers to acquire paperwork  positioned abroad, the UK Supreme Court docket has clarified the extraterritorial impact of the laws facilitating that energy domestically. The Supreme Court docket held that KBR, Inc., the U.S. engineering, procurement and building firm, was not required to supply the SFO with paperwork that have been positioned abroad throughout a prison investigation into its UK subsidiary, KBR Ltd.

The overturning of the Excessive Court docket’s choice is critical in that it negates the misplaced request made by the SFO pursuant to part 2(3) of the Prison Justice Act 1987 (the “CJA”). Nevertheless, it might have little sensible impact for corporations beneath investigation. The KBR case was reality particular. Though KBR Ltd. and Inc. clearly labored carefully collectively inside the similar group, they’re separate authorized entities. One couldn’t compel the opposite to behave. The choice in query involved a situation the place paperwork are requested from:

    A overseas registered firm;
    Not registered or carrying on enterprise within the UK; and
    The paperwork are held overseas inside the overseas registered firm.

However this choice, the SFO continues to have interaction with instruments, each new and previous, to acquire proof, documentary and in any other case, from multi-national corporations that it’s investigating. 


The Supreme Court docket’s judgment stemmed from a discover that was issued by the SFO in furtherance of its investigation into KBR Ltd. in 2017. The discover was issued pursuant to Part 2(3) of the CJA, a strong instrument within the SFO’s armoury because it compels an individual beneath investigation, or some other individual, to provide specified paperwork which seem to the SFO to narrate to any matter related to an investigation.

On the time, KBR Ltd. was beneath investigation by the SFO following its provision of consultancy providers to Unaoil, a Monaco based mostly oil and fuel consultancy firm which was itself beneath investigation by the SFO for suspected briberous conduct. KBR Ltd. complied with the Part 2(3) discover; nevertheless, when the SFO found that its mother or father firm was concerned in approving funds to Unaoil, it invited representatives from KBR, Inc. to fulfill with it in London. Throughout that assembly, the SFO served a Part 2(3) discover on KBR, Inc. The discover requested paperwork that have been held by KBR, Inc. within the US. KBR, Inc. judicially reviewed the SFO’s choice to serve the discover on the idea that Part 2(3) of the CJA has no extraterritorial impact.

In 2018 the Excessive Court docket held that Part 2(3) of the CJA had extraterritorial utility in respect of corporations abroad the place there was a “enough connection” between the corporate and the UK. The Excessive Court docket decided that there was such a enough connection within the current case as a result of related funds with which the SFO was involved have been authorised by KBR, Inc. and a senior govt of KBR, Inc. was based mostly within the KBR Group’s UK workplace and appeared to hold out his features inside the jurisdiction. 

The next 12 months, KBR, Inc. was granted depart to attraction that call. Although the SFO, in addition to the Division of Justice’s, investigation into KBR, Inc. had since been withdrawn, oral arguments in relation to the Supreme Court docket attraction have been heard just about in October final 12 months. The Supreme Court docket held that in observing the necessities of worldwide legislation and the comity precept, the place to begin is that there’s a presumption that UK laws “is mostly not supposed to have extra-territorial impact”. That presumption utilized within the current case as KBR Inc. “has by no means carried on enterprise in the UK or had a registered workplace or some other presence right here”. The Supreme Court docket then went on to contemplate whether or not Parliament supposed that the availability had extra-territorial utility. It held that the legislative historical past of the CJA demonstrates that it didn’t, and there was no foundation upon which a “enough connection” take a look at could possibly be inferred into Part 2(3) of the CJA. The Court docket famous that the SFO has different powers to make use of which have been created for the aim of acquiring paperwork positioned in abroad jurisdictions, similar to mutual authorized help (“MLA”), which included built-in safeguards.


As acknowledged above, the judgment can be welcomed by defence practitioners because it has supplied some a lot wanted readability in respect of the SFO’s powers. Nevertheless, it might counsel that the laws on this space has didn’t maintain apace with the more and more world method by which corporations now conduct themselves, and subsequently the multi-jurisdictional scope {that a} rising variety of the SFO’s investigations embody. However it’s not for the courts to treatment this lacuna; it’s for Parliament to supply the SFO with clear powers in that respect. Abroad manufacturing orders (“OPO”) are one step in that route. The Crime (Abroad Manufacturing Orders) Act 2019 permits investigative companies, such because the SFO, to use to a Crown Court docket decide for the manufacturing of digital information that’s saved abroad in circumstances referring to indictable offences. Nevertheless, OPOs can solely be made in circumstances the place there exists a delegated worldwide co-operation association. At current, the UK has solely entered into such an association with the U.S. Moreover, as set out within the Supreme Court docket’s judgment, the SFO continues to have obtainable to it the power to make MLA requests. Nevertheless, owing to the comparatively tedious course of of constructing such requests, it could possibly take months, even years, to acquire info in that method; subsequently, the MLA route isn’t all the time the best for the SFO to acquire paperwork positioned abroad. 

Will the choice on this case lead some corporations to contemplate altering their company constructions in order to keep away from falling inside the jurisdiction of the CJA? Will it lead corporations to rigorously think about the place paperwork, whether or not paper or digital, are held, and who maintains possession of them? Perhaps. Though in actuality these sorts of selections are unlikely to have a substantial affect on the SFO’s capacity to acquire the paperwork that it requires in different jurisdictions. The SFO is prone to proceed working very carefully with its abroad counterparts in relation to its investigations, and firms which might be already well-organised are prone to constructively work together with the SFO in any occasion, not least to reap the advantages of such cooperation. 

U.S. Perspective

The U.S. has thought-about related challenges to the KBR case. For probably the most half, U.S. prosecutors are inspired and anticipated to comply with conventional bilateral MLAT procedures to acquire overseas proof. Nevertheless, in actuality U.S., prosecutors have important capacity to acquire foreign-based proof by unilateral course of served on U.S. entities with overseas mother and father or subsidiaries. When these unilateral processes have been challenged nevertheless, most have been rejected by the federal courts supplied the home firm subpoenaed has enough contacts with the U.S. In reality, Courts have even required corporations to provide data positioned overseas even the place doing so would violate overseas legislation. And of late, laws has cemented the authority of U.S. regulators to acquire related proof from home corporations no matter the place they’re positioned.

Constructive Presence

Within the early 1980’s a number of federal courts decided that the U.S. authorities had authority to serve a subpoena on a U.S. department of a overseas entity and procure related data, even when these data have been positioned overseas. These circumstances have been based mostly on the notion that the overseas entity was voluntarily current within the U.S. and had consented to its jurisdiction. The bodily location of the proof sought was held to be of no import in such circumstances [see, e.g., In re Grand Jury Proceedings (Bank of Nova Scotia) 691 F.2d 1384 (11th Cir. 1982); In re Grand Jury Subpoena Directed to Marc Rich & Company A.G., 707 F.2d 663 (2d Cir. 1983)]. 

Patriot Act Subpoenas

The USA Patriot Act, 31 USC 5318(okay) (3)(A), which was enacted as a part of the Financial institution Secrecy Act designed to stop cash laundering, permits the federal government to hunt data from a U.S. financial institution that holds a overseas financial institution’s correspondent account “together with data maintained outdoors of the [ U.S.] referring to the deposit of funds into the overseas financial institution” by way of a “Patriot Act Subpoena”. This legislation has been interpreted expansively, permitting entry to data held by overseas banks that use U.S. correspondent accounts, together with data of transactions that don’t themselves go by means of a U.S. correspondent account [see, e.g., In Re Sealed Case].

Latest Legislative Developments

The U.S. Congress has sought to codify U.S. prosecutors’ capacity to entry paperwork positioned overseas.  For instance, in March 2018 the U.S. Congress handed the Clarifying Lawful Abroad Use of Information Act, or “CLOUD Act.” In pertinent half, the CLOUD Act makes express in U.S. legislation the long-established U.S. and worldwide precept that an organization topic to a rustic’s jurisdiction will be required to provide information the corporate controls, no matter the place it’s saved at any cut-off date. 18 U.S.C. § 2713. In January 2021, the U.S. Congress amended the U.S. Financial institution Secrecy Act and considerably expanded the scope of Patriot Act Subpoenas.  The brand new legislation now permits the U.S. authorities companies to subpoena a overseas financial institution’s foreign-located financial institution data from its U.S. correspondent financial institution with out regard as to whether the correspondent account was used as a part of the potential violation of U.S. legislation. This new authority isn’t restricted to violations of the Financial institution Secrecy Act. Moderately, it may be utilized in any investigation of a violation of any federal prison legislation, along with investigations carried out beneath the Financial institution Secrecy Act / anti-money laundering legal guidelines and rules.

Outlook for 2021

We’re prone to see extra investigations in 2021 with Joe Biden taking presidential workplace, the UK leaving the European Union and the COVID-19 pandemic showing to be introduced beneath management. Inside that context, the UK and U.S., particularly, will probably proceed its cooperation on this space; certainly the Director of the SFO has beforehand commented on the energy of the collaboration that exists between UK and U.S. prosecutorial companies. And naturally, there may be now welcome certainty on the jurisdictional attain of one of many SFO’s most vital powers.

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