SFO Tchenguiz legal fees rise as disclosure exercise delays trial

The SFO is on course to rack up legal fees well in excess of £1.2m on a monumental disclosure exercise in the defence of a £200m damages claim brought by businessmen brothers Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz.

A month ago court documents revealed that the disclosure exercise had cost £118,000 (11 June 2013). However this figure could rocket by the end of the year, once the exercise is complete.

The SFO has managed to produce only a tiny fraction of the 1m documents expected in the process, resulting in a bid to delay full disclosure until the end of the year. All relevant documents were originally scheduled to be disclosed to the brothers’ legal teams by the beginning of August.

The SFO applied this week for an extension of time during a two-day hearing on disclosure before Mr Justice Eder in the Queen’s Bench Division. The judge is expected to set a revised date of 19 December, with the full trial still currently listed to kick off in early May next year.

It is understood that the SFO has so far disclosed only 298 of the expected 1m documents to the claimants.

An SFO spokeswoman told The Lawyer: “We are in the middle of a two-day hearing on disclosure and there is nothing more we can say as the matter is before the court.”

The brothers’ claim revolves around a series of allegations of injustices emerging from the SFO’s spectacular failed investigation around the collapse of Icelandic bank Kaupthing. The brothers were originally arrested, but the SFO dropped the case after a drawn out battle over the validity of its search warrants.

The legal line-up

For the SFO

Blackstone Chambers’ James Eadie QC and Serle Court Chambers’ Dominic Dowley QC, instructed by Slaughter and May partner Jonathan Cotton

For Vincent Tchenguiz

Debevoise & Plimpton partner Peter Goldsmith QC, Fountain Court Chambers’ Bankim Thanki QC and Rosalind Phelps, instructed by Stephenson Harwood partner Sean Jeffrey

For Robert Tchenguiz

Essex Court Chambers’ Joe Smouha QC and Anton Dudnikov and Matrix Chambers’ Alex Bailin QC and Alison Macdonald, instructed by Shearman & Sterling partner Jo Rickard