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Naboa $1bn family battle dubbed to be the next Thyssen; heavy-hitters called in
Coudert Brothers and Ince & Co have been dropped from a trial due to start in the Commercial Court next month, which echoes the infamous Thyssen litigation. Like the Thyssen saga, it concerns a family dispute over a vast corporation run by an offshore company. It also includes a number of extremely high-profile figures, a collection of the world's most expensive lawyers and will include a showdown between Gordon Pollock QC and Lord Grabiner QC. The claimants have been ordered to pay £3.25m into the court as security for costs. The first defendant, Alvaro Noboa, a lawyer and one of Ecuador's richest men, is expected to give his evidence by video link, as he will be busy electioneering to become the new president of Ecuador. Noboa is accused of deceiving the claimants, his two sisters Maria Elena and Isabel, to gain a 50 per cent stake in FSL, one of the world's largest fruit companies. The claimants are trying wrestle back control of FSL, valued at around $1bn (£638m). The case, which started in 1998, has already been beset with twists and turns. In November 1998 it was thrown out of a New York court on jurisdictional grounds and has already been to the High Court twice for interlocutory hearings. In recent weeks the sisters have replaced Coudert, their firm of choice for around the past four years, with Leboeuf Lamb Greene & Macrae. Parties were informed at a pre-trial hearing on 24 July that Coudert, whose London head of litigation Maria Frangeskides had been running the case, had been dropped. David Wilkinson and David Waldron of Leboeuf are now in charge. At the hearing, it was revealed that one of the claimants had already dropped Coudert and the other was about to do so. Ince & Co partner Ben Horn, who was acting for FSL, has also been dropped and replaced by Herbert Smith partner David Gold, The Lawyer can reveal. Gold had previously acted for two defendant Bahamian trust companies, Earth and Water, which had been set up to act as vehicles for an agreement by which Noboa gained a 25 per cent stake in FSL. Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft's London litigation partner Michelle Duncan and New York litigation partner Howard Hawkins, who are acting for Noboa, are also now acting for Earth and Water. Lovells and Macfarlanes are acting for a further five trust companies, although parts of the actions against them have been stayed. The claimants' heavyweight barrister team comprises Pollock and Laurence Rabinowitz QC. It is understood that Jonathan Sumption QC was also approached by Coudert to lead Rabinowitz. Ian Glick QC, who had been acting with Lord Grabiner QC for Noboa, ceased acting when it was considered an unnecessary luxury to have three silks after Kenneth Maclean QC, who previously acted as a junior, took silk in April.