£1.2bn Thyssen trial could move to London

The parties in the long-running Thyssen litigation are in a standoff over the future location of the £1.2bn proceedings.

`The Chief Justice of Bermuda, Austin Ward, has invited both sides to move the case to London after the original hearing collapsed in April when the presiding judge, Mr Justice Mitchell, stood down following a dispute over his contract (The Lawyer, 2 April). The parties are fighting over Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza's £1.2bn fortune.`Ward visited London several days ago to meet the new judge in the case, a senior chancery judge understood to be Sir Gavin Lightman.`Parties have also been invited to consider a pre-trial review (PTR) in London. Most of the lawyers are from London chambers or firms, and the new judge continues to sit in the chancery division of the High Court.`Although the defendant legal teams representing Thyssen Junior – who was the main beneficiary of the continuity trust where the baron placed his family business fortunes in 1983 – and the corporate defendants are happy with having a PTR in London, the claimants – the baron and his wife – are not.`Among their objections is the fact that most of their solicitors are from Bermudian firm Appleby Spurling and Kempe. Ward is believed to have asked the claimants to reconsider their objection.`Although not yet officially announced, sources close to the litigation said Judge Lightman's appointment would be confirmed in several days.`The appointment will be made on the basis of consultation between Bermudian authorities, Britain's Foreign Office and the Lord Chancellor's Department. Discussions are continuing between the governor of Bermuda and the Lord Chancellor.`It is also expected that a PTR will determine the length of the trial. Concerns have been raised that in the original hearing the lead statement of the claimants' lead counsel, Michael Crystal QC, lasted 63 days.`An advantage in conducting the case in London is that many witnesses are from Europe. Crucially, one is expected to be a sitting High Court judge, Sir Timothy Lloyd. When he was a chancery silk he advised the baron on the sale of his paintings to Spain between 1990-93, and in the review of the arrangements for the beneficiaries of the art trust and the continuity trust in 1993.`The claimants declined to comment.