The U.K. Serious Fraud Office said Thursday it lost 32,000 pages of documents and 81 audio tapes and computer files compiled during its six-year investigation of BAE Systems.
The evidence was sent to the wrong person by accident.
It was missing for a year before the SFO realized the mistake.
The case began in 2004 with allegations that U.K.-based BAE secretly paid $2 billion to Prince Bandar bin Sultan — Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to Washington — in return for inside help selling Typhoon jet fighters to the Saudi government.
BAE pleaded guilty in the United States in 2010 to one charge of conspiring to make false statements to the U.S. government in connection with export licenses and its compliance with the FCPA.
It paid a criminal fine of $400 million.
In a simultaneous deal with the Serious Fraud Office, BAE pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to keep accounting records for payments to a marketing adviser in Tanzania. The company paid a penalty of £30 million.
The SFO said last week the material it lost came from 59 sources. The agency said it contacted the sources to tell them about the data loss.
Most of the material has been recovered or was destroyed by the recipient, who wasn’t identified.
The SFO said Britain’s national security wasn’t harmed by the error.
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Here’s part of the U.K. Serious Fraud Office’s ‘Statement on Data Loss Incident’ released August 8, 2013:
The SFO is dealing with an incident of accidental data loss. The data concerned was obtained by the SFO in the course of its closed investigation into BAE Systems.
The SFO has a duty to return material to those who supplied it, upon request, after the close of an investigation. In this instance the party requesting the return was sent additional material which had in fact been obtained from other sources.
The data constituted 3 per cent of the total data in the case. It consists of 32,000 document pages, 81 audio tapes and electronic media. Of this, 98 per cent of the material has been recovered and efforts continue to recover all the remaining material that has not already been destroyed by the recipient. No material relating to national security was included in the data.
Any loss of data is a serious matter and the SFO has taken action to ensure no further material can be wrongly sent out. . . .
We have contacted the 59 sources of the data to inform them of the situation and are working to contact any others who may have been affected.
The Information Commissioner’s Office was notified and the Director of the SFO appointed Peter Mason CBE in July this year to carry out an independent review.
He has concluded that the incident was accidental, and he has made recommendations which have all been accepted by the SFO and are now being implemented. Mr Mason has agreed to make a fuller assessment of the incident and aims to interview former members of staff. He will return to the SFO in the early part of next year to see how his recommendations have been implemented.
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The full statement is here.
Richard L. Cassin is the Publisher and Editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.