The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is to recruit an additional 10 junior barristers to join the team involved in the defence of the multi-million damages claims brought by the Tchenguiz brothers.
Last year property tycoons Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz sued the SFO for more than £200m after the agency made serious mistakes in its investigation of their role in the collapse of Icelandic bank Kaupthing, of which they were executives.
Slaughter and May is managing the disclosure exercise and a witness statement filed by Slaughter’s dispute resolution partner Jonathan Cotton as part of the pre-trial hearings last week revealed that the SFO has so far spent £118,000 up to 30 April on the disclosure review.
It also revealed that the review was progressing slower than expected, resulting in plans to bring in up to 10 more barristers to join the team of 25 already working on the process.
Outsourcing to an external provider was not an option, Cotton said, considering the detailed legal knowledge required.
A spokesman at the SFO confirmed that the review team involved in managing the process and carrying out quality control exercise has already been increased from 10 barristers in March to 25 on 22 May.
Both Tchenguiz brothers, who before the financial crisis owned around 1% of all residential property in Britain, were arrested in dawn raids on their homes in March 2011. However, the investigations were dropped and in judicial review proceedings last July, the High Court overturned the search warrants used by the SFO to seize documents and files.
The SFO’s decision to hire Slaughter and May and apply this level of resource reflects the fact that, if the Tchenguiz brothers win, this will be the biggest single largest payout in the SFO’s 25-year history.