Stephenson Harwood faces Porter in the BVI

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) will be the venue for the final part of law firm Stephenson Harwood’s case against disgraced former Conservative council leader Dame Shirley Porter.

The law firm has already racked up some £1.7m in legal fees after years of high-profile litigation.

The lead partner on the case, commercial litigator John Fordham, has instructed BVI firm Harney Westwood & Riegels for the final round in the litigation.

A mediation in Brussels has already resulted in a settlement under which Porter, who instructed Farrer & Co litigation partner Adrian Parkhouse, agreed to pay £12.3m in compensation for selling off homes cheaply to shore up Conservative support while she was leader of Westminister Council.

This is still a long way short of the £27m-plus interest and costs that Porter was originally owing after being found guilty of wilful misconduct during the gerrymandering scandal in the late 1980s. It is understood that around £30m was frozen in bank accounts in Guernsey before the settlement at the end of April.

The court in the BVI – the Caribbean island where the trust containing the £12.3m is registered – will weigh up the benefit of paying this sum to Westminister Council against the interests of the beneficiaries of the island’s trust. The beneficiaries include Porter herself, who owns £6m, and the rest is owned by members of her family.

Fordham said: “We think the settlement is very good. Porter knew that she was in potential trouble [because of the homes-for-votes scandal] at the beginning of 1994. Later in 1994 she settled money in trust. That money is now worth approximately £6m, so a settlement of £12.3m is a very good deal.”