Lord Goldsmith leads stellar line-up as Tchenguiz hearing kicks off

Debevoise & Plimpton’s Lord Goldsmith QC has questioned whether the Serious Fraud Office is fit for purpose after it admitted mistakes in its dawn raids on the Tchenguiz brothers.

Lord Goldsmith QC
Lord Goldsmith QC

Goldsmith was one of a raft of high-profile silks in court as a judicial review hearing brought by the Tchenguiz brothers into alleged failings by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into their business dealings.

He was instructed by Wilmer Hale litigation partner Stephen Pollard for Vincent Tchenguiz, with Matrix Chambers’ Ben Emmerson QC and Cloth Fair Chambers’ Jonathan Barnard also instructed.

The former director of public prosecutions, Matrix Chambers’ Lord Macdonald QC, is acting for Robert Tchenguiz alongside fellow Matrix silk Alex Bailin and Cloth Fair’s Clare Sibson. The counsel are instructed by BCL Burton Copeland partners Ian Burton and Richard Sallybanks.

Meanwhile Blackstone Chambers’ James Eadie QC is also involved, representing new SFO director David Green QC.

This week Goldsmith told the court that the SFO conceded that it was liable to pay costs to Vincent Tchenguiz for damage to his business empire because of the negative publicity and disruption caused by last year’s investigation.

Goldsmith also claimed that high profile dawn raids and arrests of the Tchenguiz brothers in March 2011 were flawed and illegal because they relied on factual errors in the search warrant applications.

The brothers were arrested last year after one of the SFO’s largest and most complex investigations relating to the Icelandic bank Kaupthing when thousands of British depositors lost their money in the crash.

They were questioned about containing high vale loans from the bank on the back of deception, but it emerged that the SFO had material which contradicted those allegations.

This week’s concessions on the position of Vincent Tchenguiz by the SFO came after specialist fraud and crime barrister Mark Ellison QC of QEB Hollis Whiteman Chambers reviewed its position. The SFO is now due to review Vincent Tchenguiz’s suspect status and bail, by 18 June.

In a note to the court, Eadie wrote that Vincent Tchenguiz’s status as a suspect in the SFO investigation will be reviewed “as a matter of urgency”.

However, the SFO has not admitted mistakes in its arrest of Robert Tchenguiz.

The line-up:

For Vincent Tchenguiz: Stephen Pollard, partner, Wilmer Hale, instructing Debevoise & Plimpton’s Lord Goldsmith QC, Matrix Chambers’ Ben Emmerson QC and Cloth Fair Chambers’ Jonathan Barnard

For Robert Tchenguiz and R20 Ltd: BCL Burton Copeland partners Ian Burton and Richard Sallybanks, instructing Matrix Chambers’ Lord Macdonald QC and Alex Bailin QC and Cloth Fair Chambers’ Claire Sibson

For Rawlinson & Hunter Trustees & others: Stephenson Harwood partner Sean Jeffrey, instructing Three Raymond Buildings’ Hugo Keith QC and Matrix Chambers’ Jonathan Glasson

For David Green QC: Treasury Solicitor, instructing Blackstone Chambers’ James Eadie QC, Three Raymond Buildings’ Ben Watson and 18 Red Lion Court’s Allison Clare