Nelson Mandela lawyer cleared of fraud charges

The Court of Appeal has cleared Nelson Mandela’s long-serving lawyer, Mohammed Iqbal Meer, of conspiracy to defraud the Zambian government.

Meer, a partner until his retirement in 2007 in the London firm of Meer Care & Desai, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the Zambian government in the High Court in June 2007 by Mr Justice Peter Smith. He was the lead defendant in a claim against 17 defendants.

Claims made against Meer’s fellow partner, Naynesh Desai, that he as an honest partner in Meer Care & Desai, was vicariously for the wrongful acts of Mr Meer under section 10 of the Partnership Act 1890, were dismissed by the Court of Appeal with costs in favour of Desai.

The High Court held that Zambia’s former president Frederick Chiluba and four senior aides conspired to rob the country’s government of $46m (£23.08m) with the aid of two London firms, Meer Care & Desai and Cave Malik & Co, between 1996 and 2002.

Today (31 July) the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling.

The Court of Appeal also dismissed Zambia’s permission to appeal to the House of Lords.

Reynolds Porter Chamberlain partner Alexander Ulm, who led the team acting for Meer, said: “This judgment is important because it establishes that failure to take steps which a solicitor ought to have taken and breach of money laundering regulations do not necessarily prove dishonesty.

“Mr Meer, for so long vilified as a party to a conspiracy to defraud the Government of Zambia, has now been vindicated by the Court of Appeal. Mr Meer always insisted that he had no knowledge of any such conspiracy and has never been prepared to compromise in any way his denial of dishonesty.”

Ulm instructed Andrew Onslow QC on the appeal and David Head on the High Court trial, all of 3 Verulam Buildings.

Desai instructed Nicholas Padfield QC of 12 Gray’s Inn Square.

DLA Piper partner Janet Le Grand instructed Michael Sullivan QC of One Essex Court to act for the Attorney General of Zambia.