When the Serious Fraud Office swooped on the Mayfair investment tycoons Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz and arrested them on March 9, 2011, as part of its probe into the collapse of the Icelandic bank, Kaupthing, the dawn raid made headlines around the world.
It was a big raid for the hapless SFO – 130 police were involved in arresting the two Tchenguiz brothers – and seven other individuals – swooping on two business properties and eight homes across London, and some in Reykjavik. Quite apart from temerity and the alleged legality of the raid, the timing was not good news for the two brothers either: they had been due to host one of their extravaganza's on board Vincent's 40-metre luxury yacht, the Veni Vidi Vici, in Cannes the day after the arrest.
Since then the SFO has had to admit the search warrants for the dawn raids on Vincent home, and offices in London’s Park Lane, more than three years ago contained fatal flaws and that there were botched attempts to delay the return of documents it seized from Tchenguiz. Eventually, the SFO investigation was abandoned in 2012 after a high court ruling that the search warrants used for high-profile raids on Tchenguiz and others were illegal — and that there had been no grounds for suspecting him of criminal offences. What’s more, the SFO apologised and paid around £6m in damages and legal costs.
But this week Vincent Tchenguiz exacted his revenge: the Iranian-born property tycoon co-ordinated own nuclear dawn raid by sending out more than 30 separate legal letters to the individuals and companies around the world who he alleges lay behind the botched SFO investigation into his links to Kaupthing. His revenge is also going to be costly; he has lodged a claim for damages of £2.2bn against accountants Grant Thornton, the two individuals involved, and the estate of the failed Icelandic bank Kaupthing in connection with the collapse of the SFO probe.
The latest claim by Tchenguiz accuses Grant Thornton, the administrator to Kaupthing, of having conspired and manipulated the SFO into launching its investigation into the circumstances surrounding the bank’s collapse during the 2008 crash.
His claim also names Stephen Akers and Hossein Hamedani — partners at Grant Thornton — and Johannes Johannsson, a member of the winding-up committee of Kaupthing. All three have been appointed by courts to act in the interest of creditors to the failed bank.
So far Grant Thornton has denied the claims. A spokesman said the firm, Steve Akers and Hossein Hamedani declared: “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.” Kaupthing also denied the claims and that the allegations made by Tchenguiz about the conduct of Kaupthing and Johannsson have absolutely no basis in fact or in law and will be very vigorously contested.”
SFO ‘deliberately manipulated’
The £2.2bn claims includes an earlier £1.6bn claim against Kaupthing that had been settled but is now live again following the SFO admissions and a further £600m that are based on Tchenguiz claims that his business reputation and the cost of capital needed to raise finance for his enterprises have been seriously damaged by the SFO case. His brother, Robert, is said to be considering a separate claim.
Tchenguiz said: “It is clear to me that the Serious Fraud Office 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.”
Helping Tchenquiz exact his revenge are lawyers Stephenson Harwood, McGuireWoods and one of the UK’s most formidable QC’s — Romie Tager of Selborne Chambers — a specialist in commercial property arbitration whose own website carries testimonies of him as ‘ a force of nature… a real scrapper and an aggressive and phenomenally effective advocate’ and a ‘terrier of a litigator.” This is going to be fun to watch play out and see whether it turns out to be Veni, Vidi or Vici.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.