THE Chief Minister has clarified a conflict of interest regarding an investigation into unlawful raids of premises allegedly connected to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich – as her husband’s firm acted for one of the parties involved in connected legal proceedings.
Deputy Kristina Moore has said she is not party to discussions about an independent review she announced in November, relating to search warrants – used by police officers seconded to the Economic Crime and Confiscation Unit to raid two properties in April last year – which were ‘obtained unlawfully’.
The issue surrounding the warrants resulted in police chief Robin Smith agreeing to apologise to two applicants – referred to throughout the ensuing legal proceedings as ‘XY’ and ‘A Limited’ – and pay damages to them using public funds.
During Tuesday morning’s States sitting, Deputy Moore said she had a conflict regarding the review because her husband’s legal firm ‘acted for one of the parties in this case for a small number of days’.
Deputy Moore has previously said the review she requested will ‘ensure any lessons learned can be considered and implemented in the most expedient manner’.
However, the government has refused to provide further details about when the review would start, who would lead it and its terms of reference.
In response to a written question from St Brelade Deputy Montfort Tadier earlier this month, following repeated attempts by the JEP and Bailiwick Express to gain further information, Deputy Moore said a government statement issued in January ‘explained developments obviating the need for an independent review’.
The statement said that, after taking independent advice, ‘the government is satisfied that the Attorney General and the Chief of Police have reviewed the circumstances around how the operational error with the warrants arose and have agreed measures that have now been put in place to ensure that such an operational error concerning the application for warrants does not happen again’.
However, in this morning’s States sitting Deputy Tadier asked when the decision to cancel the review was taken and why.
Deputy Moore said: ‘As the deputy is aware, following my announcement I discovered that I had a conflict – I was not aware of that at the time of calling for an independent investigation therefore I have had to recuse myself and I have had no further part in these discussions, which is why I offered to the Deputy that either the Deputy Chief Minister [Kirsten Morel] or Deputy [Ian] Gorst might be better people to answer this question.’
Deputy Tadier asked for clarification on why the conflict prevented her from explaining why the review hadn’t happened.
Deputy Moore reiterated that she had declared a conflict and was no longer involved, adding: ‘Therefore I am not party to discussions and nor can I answer the deputy’s question.’
However, Deputy Bailiff Robert MacRae said that under standing orders Deputy Moore was obliged to ‘clearly state the nature of the conflict of interest’.
Deputy Moore said: ‘It was stated in a judgement that has been published by the court that my husband’s firm acted for one of the parties in this case for a small number of days and therefore I consider that I have a conflict in this matter.’
Deputy Sam Mézec asked which party her husband’s firm had acted for in the case.
Deputy Moore said: ‘Sir I think you will have some sympathy that I do not know, generally, who my husband’s clients are and therefore I am afraid I couldn’t even recall which of the parties in this matter was the client at that time.’
In a statement given to the JEP after the sitting, Deputy Moore added: ‘I learned about the conflict of interest on or about 15 November 2022 and immediately arranged for the matter to be dealt with by other ministers (the Deputy Chief Minister and Treasury Minister).
‘It is a normal and proper course of action for a minister to recuse themselves from a matter when they become aware of a conflict of interest. The source of the information concerning the conflict is legally privileged and confidential but was not from my husband’s law firm. I cannot comment further for the reasons already explained in the States Assembly.
‘This matter is the subject of current proceedings and a criminal investigation.’