Ex-UK prosecutor, fired for alleged swearing at FBI, wins employment case

Kirstin Ridley
·2-min read

By Kirstin Ridley

LONDON (Reuters) - A British former prosecutor fired by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) after allegedly swearing at an FBI officer in a London pub has won a lawsuit for unfair dismissal and breach of contract.

An employment tribunal ruled that Tom Martin, who led the British part of a global bribery investigation into the prominent Ahsani family and their Monaco-based energy consultancy Unaoil, probably did not use expletives and that U.S. agencies "clearly" wanted him removed from his post.

Remedies will be determined at a later date, it said in a judgment seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

The former case controller, who is seeking compensation and reinstatement, was fired for gross misconduct in December 2018 - around two years after allegedly calling an FBI agent a "quisling", "spy" and a four-letter expletive in a pub after a meeting at the U.S. embassy in London about Unaoil.

But the tribunal found that the FBI officer did not take offence at anything Martin had said and that no reasonable employer should ignore the possibility that such a late complaint might be triggered by ulterior motives.

A SFO spokesperson said only: "We are carefully considering the judgment and all our options."

Martin alleged he was fired because the U.S. Department of Justice and Ahsanis wanted to remove him from the Unaoil case and thwart the SFO's attempts to extradite Saman Ahsani, a key suspect, to Britain from Rome in 2018.

The tribunal agreed.

"I find it inescapable that the U.S. agencies and the (Ahsani) defence team had the same reason for raising the complaints, namely that they wanted the claimant removed so as to prevent difficulty with their joint wish to have Mr Ahsani extradited to the U.S.," it said.

The latest twist in the Unaoil saga is another blow to SFO director Lisa Osofsky, who has already drawn rebuke from a judge over contacts with an Ahsani agent, and has turned a spotlight on how bitterly U.S. and British prosecutors wrestled over prime Unaoil suspects.

The SFO has secured three convictions in the Unaoil investigation to date.

But in a coup for U.S. authorities, British brothers Cyrus and Saman Ahsani, Unaoil's former CEO and COO, pleaded guilty in the U.S. in 2019 to being part of a multimillion-dollar bribery scam to help major Western companies win energy projects in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa over two decades.

(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Nick Macfie)