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SFO launches criminal investigation into ENRC

The FTSE-100 mining group said it is “committed to a full and transparent investigation of its procedures and conduct”.

The Serious Fraud Office has launched a criminal investigation into Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) amid allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption relating to the activities of the company or its subsidiaries in Kazakhstan and Africa.

The agency, part of the UK criminal justice system, had first begun an official probe into ENRC before its potential restructuring was announced last week, reported the Financial Times citing people familiar with the investigation.

Earlier, SFO demanded documents from Law firm Dechert, who was appointed to investigate those assets and then report findings to the agency. Dechert’s report on Kazakhstan had already been handed to the SFO.

However, Dechert was replaced in late March. The SFO then served a Section 2a notice to ENRC demanding documents at a pre-investigation stage when it suspects overseas bribery.

The Dechert replacement was part of a big turnover of ENRC’s advisers and many of its board members and senior employees, including Alex Gaft, a senior corporate investigator who was examining conduct at the group’s large iron ore division, reported FT.

Earlier this week, Mehmet Dalman, chairman of ENRC, has announced his resignation amid allegations of corruption.

ENRC is controlled by three Central Asian oligarchs, Kazakhmys, a London-listed miner, and the government of Kazakhstan.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.