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Tchenguiz dispute latest: court orders SFO to list documents in £3bn case

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has been ordered by London’s High Court to list documents it had inadvertently disclosed in the ongoing £3bn Tchenguiz dispute.

The decision comes as the defendants in the case seek disclosure regarding the fraud agency’s investigation into the Tchenguiz brothers. Property tycoons Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz (pictured) launched a multibillion pound legal action against Grant Thornton, Icelandic bank Kaupthing and three individuals in 2014 for their involvement in the SFO’s botched investigation against them.

The brothers since filed a claim that the defendants ‘conspired to instigate’ the SFO probe into their business affairs leading to dawn raids on their premises in 2011.

The latest in the ongoing saga saw an application made earlier this year by the defendants seeking SFO disclosure of witness statements and expert reports (for forensic accounting and banking) served during the watchdog’s proceedings.

With judgment handed down on 3 May and made public last Friday (3 June), Mr Justice Knowles ordered the SFO to provide a list of material which the claimant Tchenguiz brothers and their legal advisers ‘have permission to review’ subject to entering into confidentiality agreements with both the SFO.

The claimants had until 10 May to provide Grant Thornton and others with witness statements while parties and the SFO have until 30 September to file and serve skeleton arguments in relation to any permission applications made.

With respect to costs, Vincent Tchenguiz has been ordered to pay 50% of Grant Thornton’s costs totalling £50,000, while Robert Tchenguiz was ordered to pay the same. Parties were made jointly liable to pay, on an indemnity basis, the SFO’s incurred costs up to and including 3 May which amounted to nearly £90,000.

A judgment handed down by Mr Justice Flaux in November on the security for costs application in the Robert Tchenguiz case showed the defendants collectively estimate their costs of that case through to trial to be between £12m – £16m.

Since the initial filing, Kaupthing succeeded in its challenges to the jurisdiction of the English courts and is now out of both cases.

However the Tchenguiz parties are appealing on the jurisdiction point, and the Court of Appeal is due to hear the appeals in February 2017.

Travers Smith and Simmons & Simmons are acting for the defendants while Tchenguiz is advised by McGuire Woods.