20 December 2018

Clifford Chance urges law firms to tackle corruption after it found itself in the eye of the storm

The firm, which denies wrongdoing, issued a statement clarifying its position after it became embroiled in allegations over the sale of a jet to the son of Equatorial Guinea's dictator.

Clifford Chance has stepped up to address allegations, published in Private Eye, surrounding its role as adviser to Teodorin Obiang, who apart from being the son of country’s dictator is also the country’s vice-president. Allegations involve a deal where Mr Obiang’s purchased a $38m private jet.

Client no longer

The firm clarified it had not acted for Teodorín Obiang in the deal to acquire the jet in 2006, but that it had advised a third party on the sale. It also said it advised Mr Obiang personally when US law enforcement accused him of corruption and attempted to seize his assets in 2011. However, the firm added it would not accept him as a client today. There is no suggestion of criminal wrongdoing by Clifford Chance. The firm issued a statement after Private Eye published the allegations last month, and general counsel Chris Perrin said ‘at the time, we saw that as an access-to-justice issue, and we therefore agreed to advise him on that one limited issue,’ adding ‘we ceased to act on it many years ago.’ He explained further, ‘it is clearly to be distinguished, in my view, from assisting him in the purchase of a private jet. Under our policies as they have evolved since 2008, we would not now act for the likes of Obiang, even on an access-to-justice issue.’

Tackling corruption

Mr Perrin said Clifford Chance would be ‘initiating discussions’ with other London law firms to coordinate a statement by the legal sector on tackling corruption. The magazine published other allegations that CC tried to set up an offshore company for the daughter of Angola’s former president in 2012, and that it drafted a contract to transfer ownership of a broadcasting company to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince shortly after its executives were detained. The firm has not responded to these other claims.

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