Addleshaws client Ablyazov debarred from defending $6bn claim

Addleshaw Goddard client Muktar Ablyazov has been debarred from defending claims totalling $6bn against him after the Court of Appeal (CoA) ruled that he could not overturn a committal order against him.

Mukhtar Ablyazov
Mukhtar Ablyazov

Addleshaw partners Ian Hargreaves and Richard Leedham instructed 20 Essex Street’s Duncan Matthews QC and Charles Béar QC of Fountain Court to lead the appeal against Mr Justice Teare’s February judgment (16 February 2012) in which Ablyazov was sentenced to 22 months in his absence because he failed to disclose the full extent of his assets.

Kazakhstan’s JSC BTA Bank had instructed Hogan Lovells to pursue claims against Ablyazov, the bank’s former chairman, after alleging that he absconded from the country after embezzling funds from the bank (6 February 2012).

New Square Chambers’ Stephen Smith QC, instructed by Hogan Lovells partner Chris Hardman, contended that Ablyazov should be debarred from defending the case if his appeal against the committal order failed (1 March 2012).

Today the court said: “Mr Ablyazov has been unconscionable in his refusal to abide by the orders of the court. […] It cannot be just or fair, or proportionate, to permit a contemnor to avoid the consequences of his contempt by the expedient of disappearing from sight (but not from the ability to communicate with his lawyers)……It is difficult to imagine a party to commercial litigation who has acted with more cynicism, opportunism and deviousness towards court orders than Mr Ablyazov.”

In a statement today Addleshaws said it would appeal the ruling and also attempt to overturn Teare J’s refusal to recuse himself from the case (1 November 2012).

It read: “Mr Ablyazov continues to maintain his right to defend the claims and has applied for permission to appeal the judgment. He is also seeking to protect his right to a fair trial by appealing Mr Justice Teare’s decision not to recuse himself, which followed Mr Ablyazov’s application that he do so on the basis of an appearance of bias.”

In May the High Court said Addleshaws was not under a legal obligation to disclose the whereabouts of its client after Hogan Lovells was refused an application to force the disclosure (17 May 2012).

The CoA ruling against Ablyazov means that Hogan Lovells can now enter judgment against him and move to enforce against his assets in order to recoup money for the bank and its creditors. The full trial in which Ablyazov was supposed to appear as a defendant was due to start tomorrow.

The case will go ahead against remaining defendants who are accused of conspiring with Ablyazov to defraud the bank.

Welcoming today’s ruling Hardman said: “As the BTA Bank proceedings have made abundantly clear, the English courts continue to show that they’re willing to develop the application of the law in an attempt to ensure that their orders are not flouted by determined, well-funded, but unscrupulous defendants.”