Robert Tchenguiz switches Shearman & Sterling for Stephenson Harwood in £300m SFO trial

Shearman & Sterling has lost one of the biggest litigation mandates of the year after business tycoon Robert Tchenguiz swapped the US firm for Stephenson Harwood in his £300m case against the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Stephenson Harwood partner Sean Jeffrey was confirmed as lawyer to Tchenguiz and his investment vehicle R20 on Monday (7 July) in place of Shearman partner Josanne Rickard. Jeffrey is already advising Robert Tchenguiz’ brother Vincent in his case against the SFO. 

The brothers and their investment vehicles are suing the agency for trespass, wrongful arrest, human rights breaches, misfeasance in public office and malicious prosecution (6 January 2014). The case is set to cost the SFO £18.5m – over half of its annual budget (9 April 2014).

Jeffrey will now represent all the claimants while Slaughter and May partner Jonathan Cotton represents the SFO.

Tchenguiz’ counsel switch comes three months after a hearing when Rickard wrote to Cotton to alert him to an amendment to the R20 claim (23 April 2014). Mr Justice Eder, who oversaw the application to amend the claim, ordered R20 to surrender £2.5m by way of security for costs when the value of its claim was reduced by £1.2m.

Jeffrey will take over the case ahead of a hearing tomorrow (11 July) in front of Eder J and has added Maitland Chambers’ Catherine Newman QC to his team.

It will be the latest in an ongoing war over the disclosure and review of contentious documents surrendered by the SFO and Grant Thornton, which sparked the Tchenguiz investigation (12 July 2013).

The Tchenguiz claimants want to show dislcosed documents to Guernsey counsel in order to bring new claims against the SFO. Tomorrow the court is expected to hear a full list of Tchenguiz lawyers including Guernsey-based counsel.

The hearing is a continuation of last month’s in front of Eder J.

The pre-trial hearing is expected on 31 July and the full trial will take place in October.

The legal line-up

For the claimant (1) Robert Tchenguiz (2) R20 Ltd

Essex Court Chambers’ Joe Smouha QC and Alex Bailin QC of Matrix leading Essex Court Chambers’ Anton Dudnikov and Essex Court’s John Robb and Maitland Chambers’ Catherine Newman QC instructed by Stephenson Harwood partner Sean Jeffrey

For the claimant (3) Rawlinson & Hunter Trustees (4) Vincent Tchenguiz (5) Vincos Ltd (6) Euro Investments Overseas Inc (7) Amora Investments Ltd

Fountain Court’s Bankim Thanki QC leading Rosalind Phelps, James Duffy and Chris Langley, all of the same set, instructed by Stephenson Harwood partner Sean Jeffrey

For the defendant the Serious Fraud Office

Serle Court’s Dominic Dowley QC and Blackstone Chambers’ James Eadie QC leading One Essex Court’s Simon Colton, Blackstone Chambers’ James Segan, instructed by Slaughter and May partner Jonathan Cotton