Dentons sues former India boss over ‘bribe’ case costs

Alleged £400,000 bribe prompts showdown between Dentons, its insurers and former employee

Denton Wilde Sapte, the UK legacy firm of SNR Denton, is suing the former head of its India group Gauri Advani, who is alleged to have been involved in an illegal act.

The firm and its insurer Travelers are taking action against Advani for £779,000 in a bid to recover costs resulting from an earlier claim brought against her and Dentons by travel agents Romy Nayyar and Paramjit Kang.

According to the judgment that was handed down on that preceding case on 16 December 2009, Advani was found to have arranged for the claimants to pay a £400,000 bribe so that they might obtain exclusive rights to sell Air India flights in the UK and Ireland.

It is alleged that the claimants did not obtain the rights and the sum was not recovered. In the judgment, Mr Justice Hamblen ­dismissed the claim on the grounds of illegality and Nayyar and Kang were ordered to pay costs, which Dentons argues have not been paid in full.

However, Christopher Coffin, head of litigation at Withers, who is acting for Advani, said his client “denied she arranged for a bribe to be paid” and that the current claim would be “vigorously defended”.

Dentons and Travelers have instructed Gabrielle Kaiser, associate director at Barlow Lyde & Gilbert. They allege that “by the use of her DWS [Dentons] business card, email address and headed notepaper […] Advani wrongly held herself out to the […] Claimants as acting in and within her capacity as a solicitor employed by DWS […]. Advani therefore wrongly introduced and increased the risk of the […] Claimants pursuing a claim against DWS.”

An SNR Denton spokesperson commented: “Our position has always been that Advani acted outside her authority and without our knowledge. The judgment in the previous case in this matter found that the travel agents who brought the suit were not clients of the firm, that we had no knowledge of what Advani was doing and that she did not act in the course of her employment.”

Advani left Dentons in 2007 to become head of the India group at Eversheds. She left the latter firm on 31 May this year and is not thought to be currently ­practising as a solicitor.

Chair of Eversheds’ India group Parmjit Singh said: “[Advani] wanted to pursue other opportunities and left with our best wishes. We thank her for her ­contribution while she was with us. “She was obviously very well-connected in India and helped raise the profile of the group and introduce us to her connections.”

Advani could not be ­contacted for comment.