Fraud case started in 1989 finally gets nod for hearing

A multimillion-pound fraud litigation that is an off-shoot of a feud started almost two decades ago finally received the go-ahead after a defence mounted by Bar Council chair Geoffrey Vos QC was rejected.

At a preliminary trial of The Estate of Anders Jahre v Compass Ltd & Ors last May, which concerns the misappropriation of £250m of dead Norwegian shipping magnate Anders Jahre’s fortune, Vos of 3 Stone Buildings sought to have the case thrown out altogether.

Vos, instructed by Clifford Chance partner Roger Leese, argued that the claim for the stolen money to be reimbursed to Jahre’s estate, which at one point was under public administration, should be barred on the grounds that it was an indirect tax collection by the Norwegian government.

Mr Justice Henderson, sitting at the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands, earlier this month ruled in favour of the estate, which was represented by Stephen Rubin QC of Fountain Court Chambers and Justin Higgo of Serle Court, instructed by Graham Ritchie of Cayman law firm Charles Adams Ritchie & Duckworth.

Henderson J dismissed Vos’s argument after making parallels with the principles from Buchanan and QRS. He wrote: “The proposition that the claim is in substance an attempt to collect foreign tax, I conclude that it is not. A contrary conclusion would amount to a significant extension of the principle.”

The full 12-week trial, expected in 2008, is likely be the final stage in the bitterly fought litigation, which has involved almost every civil set in England since it began in 1989.