Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, the FTSE 100 miner being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office over claims of fraud, bribery and corruption in Africa, is suing Sir Paul Judge, a City grandee and former director, for allegedly leaking information to the media.
The Kazakhstan-focused firm, which is subject to a £3bn takeover by its three oligarch founders, accuses Judge of "malicious leaks" that have damaged the company's reputation and stock market value.
ENRC demanded that Judge, who quit the company alongside former chairman Mehmet Dalman earlier this year, immediately returns all confidential documents. The company is also seeking millions of pounds in damages.
Gerhard Ammann, ENRC's new chairman, said: "We have conducted thorough investigations into the malicious leaks that have damaged the company, its reputation and ultimately shareholder value.
"While these investigations continue, the company has an obligation to bring legal action where appropriate in order to protect the company's information and stakeholders' interests."
A lawyer representing Judge, who had served on ENRC's board for six years, did not respond to requests for comment.
Details of the high court lawsuit will not be made public for 14 days, but it is understood to allege that Judge is the source of leaked documents allegedly proving ENRC made "cash payments to African presidents".
Judge, an ex-director general of Conservative Central Office and a former senior figure at Cadbury Schweppes, has been served with a so-called Section 2 notice by the SFO requiring him to hand over documents and help with its criminal investigation into ENRC.
The SFO is investigating "allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption relating to the activities of the company or its subsidiaries in Kazakhstan and Africa".
The SFO has also served a Section 2 notice on Dechert, a law firm that was investigating whistleblower claims on behalf of ENRC. Dechert was fired by ENRC just two weeks before its report was due to be handed over to the SFO.
In an eight-page letter sent to ENRC following its sacking Dechert claimed to have found "documentary evidence regarding the making of cash payments to African presidents" in connection with the purchase of a copper smelter in Zambia.
While looking into the acquisition of a copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Dechert said it also found "evidence that documents had been falsified, the CFO of ENRC had been misled, and that $35m [£22.6m] had been misappropriated".
ENRC said: "There is no evidence to substantiate these allegations."
A consortium which includes ENRC's three billionaire founders – Alexander Machkevitch, Alijan Ibragimov and Patokh Chodiev – along with the Kazakh government is attempting to acquire the 46% of ENRC it does not already own after the group's share price dropped by 70% over the past two years because of a string of scandals and the fraud probe.
Investors in Kazakhmys, another Kazakh miner and ENRC's biggest shareholder, will vote on whether to support the founders takeover plan on 2 August.
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