LONDON – The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating a company with links to the former Chancellor, Lord Lamont of Lerwick. Arrests have been made as part of the inquiry into Balli Group, which was announced in May this year.
It is not believed that anyone has yet been officially charged, and no names of those being investigated have been released. Norman Lamont has not been named as a suspect or person of interest.
In 2010 Balli Aviation Ltd pleaded guilty to charges of illegally exporting Boeing aircraft from the United States to Iran, in breach of sanctions. Balli Aviation agreed to pay a $2 million (£1.57 million) fine alongside the group’s larger $15 million (£11.78 million) civil settlement. The group went into bankruptcy administration in 2013, with debts of more than £834 million.
Lamont is a previous director of Balli Group, but there is no suggestion that he is among those being personally investigated.
He resigned from Balli in 2012, having held the post since 1995, and is currently the UK’s trade envoy to Iran and on the government’s Economic Affairs Committee. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1990 and 1993.
Lamont told The Times that the SFO had not contacted him regarding the investigation.
After Balli Group filed for bankruptcy, Deloitte took over the administration of the group. Deloitte’s initial report stated the company and its subsidiaries had “loaned significant sums to related parties between 2007 and 2012 to finance investments in non-core activities, specifically property and aviation, which were unsuccessful.”
Its report from January noted that the duration of the administration is “likely to be dependent on progress of the SFO’s investigation.”
Since January 2016, when sanctions on Iran were lifted, the UK government has made efforts to improve links with the Gulf region: in December, Prime Minister Theresa May said at the Gulf Cooperation Summit in Bahrain that the UK’s new Gulf strategy would deepen the UK’s relationship with Gulf states, and that Britain would invest over £3 billion in defence in the region over the next ten years.
“We are now presented with an opportunity to put Anglo-Iranian relations on a new footing,” said Trade Secretary Liam Fox in November.
“This developing relationship has the potential to be a mutually beneficial and prosperous one,” he said, “as Britain recasts its own place in the world, we will continue to work with Iran on the future expansion of our trading relationship.”