PROPERTY mogul Vincent Tchenguiz has launched a £2.2bn legal action against Grant Thornton, Icelandic bank Kaupthing and three individuals for their involvement in a failed Serious Fraud Office investigation against him and his brother Robert.
In the claim, which also names Grant Thornton partners Stephen Akers, Hossein Hamedani, and Icelandic lawyer Johannes Johannsson, Tchenguiz alleges that the defendants “conspired to instigate” the SFO probe into his business affairs that led to dawn raids against the brothers’ premises in March 2011.
The inquiry was subsequently dropped in 2012 amid a series of blunders and the SFO apologised, paying the brothers millions of pounds in damages earlier this year.
The Tchenguiz brothers were targeted by the SFO over the running of holding company Oscatello, one of Kaupthing’s largest debtors at the time of its collapse at the height of the 2008 financial crisis. It was later revealed that the March 2011 search warrants relied heavily on documents provided by Grant Thornton, whose liquidators Steve Akers and Mark McDonald were representing Oscatello.
In February, Grant Thornton liquidators lost an appeal to hand over vital documents at the centre of the Tchenguiz brothers’ case against the SFO. The brothers won a court order in July 2013 which ordered the release of documents that triggered the SFO to carry out the raids.
Tchenguiz alleges that the named parties “deliberately manipulated” the SFO 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 ,” Tchenguiz said in a statement.
He also contends that the individuals worked to put him “under acute commercial and financial pressure” to settle a claim against Kaupthing and “unlawfully to obtain information” through the SFO investigation.
A spokesperson from Grant Thornton said: “Grant Thornton UK LLP, Steve Akers and Hossein Hamedani deny all of the claims made. 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.”
Kaupthing said in a statement: “The allegations made by Vincent Tchenguiz about the conduct of Kaupthing and Johannes Runar Johannsson have absolutely no basis in fact or in law and will be very vigorously contested.”
Robert Tchenguiz told Reuters by email that he would join the lawsuit.
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