It is not unusual for an SFO investigation to take some time before reaching its conclusion. In fact the length of the SFO's investigation into Soma is relatively short when compared to others on the SFO's books.
This case raises the serious issue that faces many companies subject to a criminal investigation. The serious reputational damage that can stem from a criminal investigation can be catastrophic. Many customers and investors will be tempted to take their business elsewhere leaving the company at risk of collapse.
Some companies may be equipped to weather the storm of a lengthy investigation for a while. In this instance the Judicial Review brought on behalf of Soma against the SFO failed. But given the serious damage caused by criminal investigations it is unlikely that this is the last crime we see the authorities subject to judicial review, especially when the company strongly believes it has done nothing wrong.
Soma Oil is facing a funding black hole which threatens to drag the Somali explorer into insolvency within months as it continues to battle a bribery and corruption scandal. The UK oil company, chaired by former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard, is unlikely to sign key development contracts with the Somali government due this week after failing to secure a project partner for its East African oil project as the corruption probe rumbles on. City sources say the latest blow to the development of its nascent oil project will make it “very difficult” for the company to extract further capital from its shareholders before its dwindling funds run dry by the year’s end.