Bermuda fraud hearing costing u100,000 a day

A fraud case in Bermuda is believed to be costing u100,000 a day, making it possibly the most expensive case in Commonwealth legal history.

Sources close to the Bermuda Fire & Marine Insurance fraud litigation on the island are astonished at the mounting costs.

The case, which began in May and is expected to last until at least March 2000, involves 28 lawyers, six QCs and solicitors from DJ Freeman, Herbert Smith, Clifford Chance and Barlow Lyde & Gilbert.

It concerns allegations of dishonesty and improper conduct against businessmen and firms involved with the 1993 collapse of Bermuda Fire & Marine Insurance.

A clerk at Erskine Chambers, which is supplying leading silk Robin Potts QC and a junior counsel, says: “In terms of costs, this is the biggest case ever to take place in the Commonwealth.”

Brick Court Chambers senior clerk Ian Moyler says: “I don't think I have come across a case costing that much before.”

Leading commercial barrister Michael Brindle QC of Fountain Court, who is also treasurer of the commercial bar, says if the u100,000 a day figure is correct, it makes the Fire & Marine litigation “one of the most costly cases”.

Lawyers believe it is costing more than either the lengthy Maxwell case, where Kevin Maxwell was acquitted of fraud charges, or the Gruppo Torres international fraud case.

A large proportion of the commercial bar is away in Bermuda working on the case and another lengthy and complex piece of litigation which is yet to start in court.

Graham Smith, managing director of Smith Bernal, which is supplying its LiveNote internet product to legal advisers involved in the case, says: “I understand it is costing about u100,000 per day. It is a very complex case and the lawyers are all staying in pretty plush accommodation.”

Clifford Chance, Norton Rose, and a number of leading barristers are also involved in a dramatic tussle in Bermuda believed to be worth u1.2bn over the fortune of one of Europe's wealthiest families, the Thyssen family, to be heard in open court in October.

The case is expected to last at least a year.