SFO turns to Blackstone’s Saini QC for £300m Tchenguiz battle

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has switched lead counsel in one of its biggest ever cases, instructing Blackstone Chambers’ Pushpinder Saini QC in place of Serle Court’s Dominic Dowley to lead the defence of a £300m claim from the Tchenguiz brothers.

The SFO has also added One Essex Court’s Charles Graham QC to its team. The news marks the second major roster switch this year, after Stephenson Harwood partner Sean Jeffrey inched out Shearman & Sterling as Robert Tchenguiz’ instructed lawyer last week (10 July 2014).

The brothers and their investment vehicles are seeking damages for trespass, wrongful arrest, human rights breaches, misfeasance in public office and malicious prosecution (6 January 2014).

The case is the latest high-profile role for Saini, who was one of the heavyweight team who acted for Irving Picard, the court appointed trustee of the Bernard Madoff Investment Securities liquidation (28 January 2013).

The SFO now has three silks defending the case with Saini and Graham joining Blackstone’s James Eadie QC, the Treasury Devil, on the team. It also has two juniors lined up, One Essex Court’s Simon Colton and Blackstone’s James Segan. The five barristers are instructed by Slaughter and May partner Jonathan Cotton.

The agency isn’t the only party to overhaul its counsel line-up.

Vincent Tchenguiz has switched Fountain Court’s Bankim Thanki QC for setmate Brian Doctor QC. He joins Debevoise & Plimpton’s Peter Goldsmith QC and Fountain Court’s Rosalind Phelps, James Duffy and Chris Langley in the counsel team (25 May 2012).

Essex Court Chambers’ Joe Smouha QC and Alex Bailin QC of Matrix Chambers are instructed for Robert Tchenguiz and investment vehicle R20 as part of a five strong group.

The latest flurry of activity comes amid a series of hearings aimed at determining the scope of document review. Disclosure has already proved highly contentious with the SFO and liquidators Grant Thornton battling the brothers over information they argue should remain private.

The brothers allege that the liquidator provided misinformation to the SFO, which led to the botched investigation into the brothers and their arrest in 2011.

On Monday (14 July) the brothers won an application at the Court of Appeal to review the SFO disclosure in relation to other matters.

Mr Justice Eder said today: “The court should, in principle, grant permission to RT to carry out the proposed course of action subject to the review team entering suitable confidentiality agreements and provided that the SFO is properly protected with regard to the reasonable costs which it might have to incur going forward in relation thereto.”

On 31 July the parties will head to court for a case management conference and the trial of all claims will commence on 1 October 2014. 

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 Chambers’ Brian Doctor QC, Debevoise & Plimpton’s Peter Goldsmith QC, leading Rosalind Phelps, James Duffy and Chris Langley, all of Fountain Court, instructed by Stephenson Harwood partner Sean Jeffrey

For the defendant the Serious Fraud Office

Blackstone Chambers’ Pushpinder Saini QC, One Essex Court’s Charles Graham 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