Grant Thornton could face £200m civil suit over Tchenguiz SFO raids

by Naomi Rainey

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29 Jul 2014

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PROPERTY TYCOON Vincent Tchenguiz may sue Grant Thornton over the firm's involvement in a botched Serious Fraud Office investigation, in a case that may be worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Consensus Business Group chairman Vincent Tchenguiz, along with brother Robert, was targeted in dawn raids as part of a 2011 SFO probe into the collapse of Icelandic bank Kaupthing. It was subsequently revealed the watchdog relied heavily on documents provided by Grant Thornton while building its case against the pair.

Last week, the SFO agreed to pay £3m plus legal costs to Vincent, in order to settle a damages claim relating to wrongful arrest and the dropped investigation. Commenting on the agreement, Vincent said it was "increasingly apparent" the failed probe "was influenced by certain third parties, acting in their own commercial interests".

Vincent (pictured) subsequently confirmed he is considering taking legal action against Grant Thornton, which was acting as liquidator for the Tchenguizs' holding company Oscatello - one of Kaupthing's largest debtors - at the time it handed documents to the SFO.

"We will be bringing an action very shortly against both Grant Thornton and Kaupthing bank," he told the Sunday Times. "We have yet to determine the exact figure for damages."

The property magnate also said he would consider a private criminal case against the firm, on the basis that the SFO "had unofficially outsourced its investigation to Grant Thornton, which was also engaged in numerous related civil proceedings".

Legal experts have suggested the claim could be worth £200m, according to the newspaper.

In July 2013, the Tchenguiz brothers won a court order that compelled the release of the files that triggered the SFO raids, despite an appeal by Grant Thornton liquidators Steve Akers and Mark McDonald. 

A Grant Thornton spokesperson said the firm has "acted appropriately, and in accordance with its professional responsibilities and legal obligations" in all disclosures.

"It is the responsibility of the investigating agency to review and interpret any information provided to it, and to act as it sees fit. Grant Thornton did not act as adviser to the Serious Fraud Office," they added.

A separate legal claim against the SFO from Robert Tchenguiz is ongoing.

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