Reports: British defense sec. could be subpoenaed in 3M case

Liam Fox, Britain's defense secretary, may be forced to give evidence in a blackmail trial involving 3M and the Porton Group in the U.S., the Guardian is reporting. If he is subpoenaed, Fox would be the first serving British cabinet minister to give evidence in a serious legal case in the U.S. The potential subpoena marks the latest twist in the ongoing saga that began when the Porton Group, a private equity firm, accused 3M of breaching its obligation on BacLite, a product designed for detecting MRSA in hospitals.

According to the Guardian, 3M wants Fox to provide evidence regarding a claim that he was aware of a threat to interfere with the award of a knighthood to the conglomerate's British-born chief executive, George Buckley. Last month, 3M filed a suit in the New York Supreme Court, accusing Porton's CEO Harvey Boulter of attempting to extort $30 million from the manufacturer to settle a lawsuit in the U.K. In its complaint, 3M also maintains Boulter sent emails threatening the company's business in the U.K., as well as Buckley's investiture as a Knight Bachelor. Buckley was named a knight by the Queen of England last month, and he is slated to participate in an investiture ceremony later this summer.

"As a result of my meeting [with Fox] you ought to understand that David Cameron's cabinet might very shortly be discussing the rather embarrassing situation of George [Buckley]'s knighthood. It was discussed today," Boulter said in one of the emails. "Governments are big and sometimes decisions in one part are not well coordinated."

Back in 2007, 3M spent $20.4 million to acquire the BacLite, which incorporated technology developed for the British military to detect an attack by biological weapons, from Acolyte Biomedica. 3M cited disappointing results from the trials as the reason for abandoning BacLite. The technology was already available in the EU at the time.

But Porton is accusing the company of mismanaging the trials to protect Fastman, a 3M-developed detection product, from the less expensive BacLite. And now there are legal proceedings moving forward on both sides of the Atlantic. 

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