Following on from the high profile Tchenguiz brothers’ lawsuit against the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in July this year, Vincent Tchenguiz has filed a further claim, this time for £2.2bn against five parties who allegedly conspired to instigate the failed investigation led by the SFO into the Tchenguiz brothers, Consensus Business Group (CBC) and the Tchenguiz Family Trust (TFT).
The five defendants are chartered accountants Grant Thornton and two of their partners Stephen John Akers (recovery and reorganisation practice) and Hossein Hamedani (forensic investigations), the winding down Kaupthing Bank, and former Kaupthing’s resolution committee member Johannes Runar Johannsson, currently partner at JP Attorneys, and a member of the bank’s winding up committee.
McGuireWoods litigator Hardeep Nahal is advising Vincent Tchenguiz, while Stephenson Harwood’s commercial litigation partner Sean Jeffrey is representing the trustees. Counsel being instructed are Romie Tager QC of Selborne Chambers, Jonathan Crystal of Goldsmith Chambers, Zacharias Miah at ASW6 Chambers and Harris Bor at Wilberforce Chambers.
The three individual defendants allegedly conspired to put Tchenguiz and the TFT companies under acute commercial and financial pressure to settle a £1.6bn Commercial Court claim brought against Kaupthing. They are also accused of effectively controlling the SFO investigation, which led to search warrants being issued on 7 March 2011 against Tchenguiz and his arrest. Grant Thornton and Kaupthing are accused of being liable for the individuals’ actions.
Tchenguiz is seeking damages estimated at £2.2bn, including aggravated and exemplary damages for claims including conspiracy by unlawful means and malicious prosecution. The case will take place in the Commercial Court
The claims come after the SFO’s initial investigation into the collapse of Icelandic bank Kaupthing led to warrants for a public raid on the Tchenguiz’ properties involving 135 police officers. The investigations were, however, dropped and in judicial review proceedings in June 2012, the High Court overturned the search warrants used by the SFO to seize documents and files, on the basis they were improperly obtained.
In July 2014, the SFO paid a total of £4.5m to both Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz – of which £3m was awarded to Vincent.
Tchenguiz said: ‘It is clear to me that the SFO was deliberately manipulated into investigating me by people who intended to cause me harm and were driven by commercial gain and self-interest. This was, I believe, quite simply, a conspiracy by the defendants to use a criminal investigative authority for their own personal ends and to cause irreparable harm to me and my business interests and I intend to see them held fully accountable.
Nahal, who issued the claim, added: ‘We are very pleased to be issuing this claim which is key to Vincent Tchenguiz’s efforts to achieve justice in relation to events going back many years which have caused him substantial damage. The claim brings into the light extremely serious allegations as to how private parties were able to manipulate regulatory and other procedures to cause damage to Vincent Tchenguiz and his interests and for their own commercial ends. These are issues which should be thoroughly examined through the court process.’
In response, a Grant Thornton spokesperson said, ‘Grant Thornton UK LLP, Steve Akers and Hossein Hamedani deny all of the claims made. We have all acted appropriately and in accordance with our professional responsibilities and legal obligations throughout. After years of speculation in the media, we will now have the opportunity to defend ourselves through the court process. Given that this is now a matter of legal proceedings, we will not be commenting further at this time.’