Peters & Peters client Mittal settles multi-million pound case

The multi-million pound dispute between Britain’s richest man Lakshmi Mittal, chair and CEO of ArcelorMittal and rival Manmohan Varma has been settled on the court steps.

Paul Lowenstein QC
Paul Lowenstein QC

The case was due to begin in the High Court today (5 March) with Peters & Peters partner Jonathan Tickner instructing Paul Lowenstein QC of 3 Verulam Buildings for Mittal.

RPC agreed to run the case on a conditional fee basis for Varma with partner Tim Brown instructing Robert Griffiths QC of 4 -5 Gray’s Inn (17 December 2012).

A statement from the parties read: ““Moni Varma and Lakshmi Mittal are pleased to announce that their differences have been resolved. They shall be making no further comment.”

The legal battle, listed as one to watch by The Lawyer (see Top 20 Cases 2013) promised to give an insight into the wealthy elite of Anglo-Indian society.

Steel tycoon Mittal was alleged by rice importer Varma to haver reneged on a multimillion-dollar agreement to pay the claimant fees for helping secure an oil deal with a former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo. It is understood Obasanjo had been lined up to give witness evidence in the case.

Varma claimed the promise of commissions was made to him orally and not written down while the pair were in Mittal’s private jet.

Mittal denied such a contract was ever made and contended that even if there were an agreement Varma would not be entitled to any commission because he had not played any causative role in brokering the deal.

The deal in question involved a joint venture (JV) between a Mittal company, an Indian state oil company and the Nigerian state in which the JV acquired two Nigerian oil blocks in return for a $6bn investment in Nigerian infrastructure. In the end the oil fields both proved unproductive.

The trial on issues of liability was set to be heard in the Commercial Court in March with issues of quantum tried at a later date.

For the claimant Varma:

Robert Griffiths QC of 4-5 Gray’s Inn leading Anthony Dearing of the same set, instructed by RPC partner Tim Brown.

For the defendant Mittal:

3 Verulam Buildings’ Paul Lowenstein QC leading Serle Court’s David Drake instructed by Peters & Peters partner Jonathan Tickner.