The High Court (Fulford LJ) has refused the SFO’s application for a voluntary bill of indictment to re-start its prosecution of former directors of Celtic Energy and others, which was dismissed by Hickinbottom J in February this year.
The SFO had alleged a conspiracy to defraud in which planning restoration obligations for four South Wales coal mines were transferred to companies in the British Virgin Islands.
The case raised issues of the construction of section 423 of the Insolvency Act (transactions defrauding creditors), the planning enforcement powers of Mineral Planning Authorities, and whether directors can defraud their own company.
However the SFO’s application failed at the first hurdle, since it did not identify an error of law in Hickinbottom J’s decision or any other reason justifying use of this exceptional procedure. To grant a bill of indictment would have been to allow the SFO to treat the original proceedings “for all practical purposes as a dummy run”.
The judgment (SFO v Evans  EWHC 3803 (QBD)) can be read here.
Press coverage of the case can be found here: