Stephenson Harwood files £200m SFO damages claim for Tchenguiz Family Trust

The SFO has instructed 5 Essex Court silk Jeremy Johnson QC to defend a £200m damages claim brought by businessman Vincent Tchenguiz.

Tchenguiz has been represented by Wilmer Hale partner Stephen Pollard, Debevoise & Plimpton’s Peter Goldsmith QC, Matrix Chambers’ Ben Emmerson QC and Cloth Fair Chambers’ Jonathan Barnard so far against the SFO.

Rawlinson & Hunter Trustees – the trustees of the Tchenguiz Family Trust – have also filed heads of claim for damages. They have instructed Stephenson Harwood partner Sean Jeffrey, Fountain Court’s Rosalind Phelps and Matrix’s Jonathan Glasson. They previously used Great James Street head of chambers Alun Jones QC and 3 Raymond Buildings silk Hugo Keith QC for the judicial review proceedings.

It is the latest development in the long-running legal battle between Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz and the SFO following the brothers’ arrests in dawn raids in March 2011.

The SFO has been ordered to pay the majority of the costs – thought to be around £3m – from the judicial review of the failed investigation, which was launched into the brothers’ dealings with Icelandic bank Kaupthing prior to its 2008 collapse.

The agency’s new director David Green admitted mistakes after strong criticism from the courts (31 July 2012).

On Monday Mr Justice Eder, sitting in the Queens Bench Division of the High Court, scheduled an eight-week trial for January 2014.

The costs bill represents around 10 per cent of the SFO’s annual budget, but is dwarfed by the £200m damages claim that is in relation to the unlawful entry search and seizures at the Vincent Tchenguiz’ Consensus Business Group offices, his home, his arrest and the investigation.

In a statement, Vincent Tchenguiz said: “I’m pleased that the legal process of assessing the financial damage stemming from my very public arrest and the search of my home and offices has now commenced.

“My reputation suffered serious damage during the 15 months between my arrest and the SFO conceding that they had no grounds for holding me as a suspect.”

The SFO was not immediately available for comment.

His broether Robert Tchenguiz has also filed a claim for damages, although sources believe the claim is much lower in value. To date, he has been represented by BCL Burton Copeland partners Ian Burton and Richard Sallybanks, former director of public prosecutions Ken Macdonald QC of Matrix Chambers, fellow Matrix silk Alex Bailin QC and Cloth Fair’s Clare Sibson.

SFO director Green, who conducted an internal review into the Tchenguiz investigation, has previously been represented by Blackstone Chambers’ James Eadie QC, QEB Hollis Whiteman’s Mark Ellison QC, Allison Clare of 18 Red Lion Court and Ben Watson of 3 Raymond Buildings.