R v PD & EB (2012)

After 4 1/2 years, proceedings in the prosecution of PD and EB for Iraqi sanctions busting finally ended on 24th February 2012.

When the prosecution offered no evidence as a result of serious failing in the disclosure process.

The investigation was started in 2007, when PD and EB received a 'compliance visit' from HMRC. At that visit, HMRC officers seized business records which revealed that, through their company, PD and EB has been supplying weapons and other material, valued in excess of $20m, to post-invasion Iraq without licences. In 2008 they were visited again by officers armed with search warrants, and in 2010 were charged with a series of strict liability offences contrary to the United Nations (Iraq) Sanctions Order 2003, as well as money laundering.

On the facts the defendants were guilty of the strict liability offences. The defence challenged the validity of the sanctions order itself. Two points were litigated in the Crown Court and in the Court of Appeal, where both were resolved in favour of the defendants (reported at R v D [2012] 1 A11 E.R. 1108). One of the grounds upon which the Sanctions Order was held to be invalid was its inconsistency with the UN SCR which followed the resolution originally implemented in domestic law by the Sanctions Order.

Thereafter the prosecution sought to replace the invalid strict liability counts with offences of evading a prohibition on trade in goods, under the 2003 Trade in Goods Control Order. The defence opposed the application to add those counts.

The final hearing began with an abuse argument, which rested upon failings in disclosure dating back to the first 'compliance visit' in 2007. After three weeks of argument the prosecution accepted defeat and offered no evidence, a step which HHJ Leonard QC noted merely achieved the result which would inevitably have followed his ruling on the application had he been called up to make one. At the conclusion of the proceedings HHJ Leonard QC expressed deep concerns about various aspects of the investigation and disclosure process exposed during the abuse application.

PD was represented in the Crown Court by William Boyce QC and Adrian Darbishire QC. EB was represented by Rachna Gokani and Simon Russell Flint QC. Andrew Katzen of  Hickman & Rose acted for PD, Shula de Jersey of Russell Jones & Walker for EB. In the Court of Appeal PD was represented by Adrian Darbishire QC, and EB by Tim Owen QC and Rachna Gokani.