Privy Council upholds quashing of ‘conflict of interests’ conviction


Re: Director of Public Prosecutions v Jugnauth & Anor [2019] UKPC 8

This appeal considered the correct interpretation of the Prevention of Corruption Act 2002, s 13(2) and (3), which creates an offence where a public official takes part in the proceedings of a public body relating to a decision in which they or their relatives has a personal interest.

The Privy Council dismissed the appeal against the quashing of the conviction of the respondent for the offence of ‘conflict of interests’.

At the material time, the respondent was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economic Development in Mauritius. He had previously been a director and secretary of Medpoint Ltd. He resigned these positions in 1994 but retained his shareholding, and his sister also held shares in the company. In 2010 the respondent declared a personal interest and left the meeting at which funding to be given to Medpoint Ltd for an NGH project was discussed, and subsequently informed his senior adviser that he was to deal with the matter so that the respondent was not involved.

The Privy Council found that there was a binding contract and a legal commitment to pay the money to Medpoint Ltd and the decision with which the conviction was concerned was whether this money would come from MOFED’s or MOHQL’s budgeted funds. The Privy Council held that the respondent’s sister, Mrs Malhotra, could not have had a personal interest within s 13(2) in the decision of where the money would come from. This was because the decision, whichever way it went, could not have affected any interest of Mrs Malhotra or the company in any way. As such, the decision taken by the respondent to approve a reallocation of funds at the stage after funds had been identified, after the payment deadline had been determined, after the contract had been awarded and after the contract amount had been determined was not a decision in which his sister had any personal interest. Therefore the Privy Council considered this to be sufficient to dispose of the appeal, finding in favour of the respondent.

Clare Montgomery QC and Joanna Buckley were involved in this case.