Tchenguiz brothers prepare to take legal action against GT over SFO probe

by Naomi Rainey

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04 Aug 2014

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VINCENT AND ROBERT Tchenguiz have confirmed plans to sue Grant Thornton, after receiving out of court settlements from the Serious Fraud Office.

At a 31 July High Court hearing to confirm the end of the brothers' claims against the SFO, Lord Goldsmith, who acts on behalf of Vincent Tchenguiz, made an application to the court to obtain an order allowing lawyers to conduct a "proper" review of disclosures made by Grant Thornton in a failed SFO probe, "both to consider potential civil and criminal actions".

The brothers (pictured) were targets of a botched SFO investigation into the collapse of Icelandic bank Kaupthing, which culminated in dawn raids on their premises in March 2011.

The High Court subsequently quashed the SFO's search warrants and criticised its conduct in the investigation. Grant Thornton, in its capacity as liquidator for Tchenguiz-owned Kaupthing debtor Oscatello, was revealed to have passed information to the agency that formed the basis of the raids.

Last month, Consensus Business Group chairman Vincent received £3m in damages plus legal costs in an out of court settlement with the SFO, for wrongful arrest and the impact of the dropped inquiry. The SFO later announced a £1.5m plus costs deal with Robert and his R20 business.

In separate statements following the settlements, the Tchenguiz brothers said they would pursue third parties they believe to have influenced the investigation, with Vincent naming Grant Thornton as a primary target for legal action.

Speaking for the brothers, Goldsmith told the court: "It's because it's become increasingly apparent that the investigation was certain third parties acting in their own commercial interests, that [Vincent] doesn't regard it... as ‘fair for the SFO, or indeed the public purse, to bear sole responsibility for the actions of those third parties'.

"He intends, therefore, now to focus his attention on those other parties, and I understand Mr Robert Tchenguiz, on whose behalf I've been asked just to make this point too... similarly regards this as a complete vindication and will also focus on others."

Echoing Vincent and Goldsmith's comments, Robert said in a statement: "I do not believe that, without external influences, the SFO would ever have had any possible cause to arrest me for suspected wrongdoing. It is now quite evident that third parties played a major part in this hugely damaging farce.

"Having resolved my issues with the SFO, I now intend to join my brother in pursuing those who I believe to be both responsible and liable for the devastation that has been caused."

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.

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