Vincent Tchenguiz has launched a claim for £2.2bn in damages against accountants Grant Thornton and the estate of the failed Icelandic bank Kaupthing in connection with the collapse of a Serious Fraud Office investigation that was heavily criticised over a dawn raid it made on the property developer.
Tchenguiz accuses Grant Thornton, the administrator to Kaupthing, of having manipulated the SFO into launching its investigation into the circumstances surrounding the bank’s collapse during the 2008 financial crisis.
The investigation was abandoned in 2012 after a series of setbacks, including a high court ruling that the search warrants used for high-profile raids on Tchenguiz and others were illegal and that there had been no grounds for suspecting him of criminal offences.
The claim also names three individuals and was filed in the high court by Tchenguiz who in July this year, settled with the SFO, receiving an apology from its director David Green and an estimated £6m in damages and legal costs.
Tchenguiz also brought the claim on behalf of Consensus Business Group, which advises his family trust, Tchenguiz Family Trust.
Tchenguiz said: “It is clear to me that the Serious Fraud Office was deliberately manipulated into investigating me by people who intended to cause me harm and were driven by commercial gain and self-interest.
“This was, I believe, quite simply a conspiracy by the defendants to use a criminal investigative authority for their own personal ends and to cause irreparable harm to me and my business interests, and I intend to see them held fully accountable.”
His claim in the high court also names Stephen Akers and Hossein Hamedani, who are partners at Grant Thornton, and Johannes Johannsson, a member of the winding-up committee of Kaupthing. All three have been appointed by courts to act in the interest of creditors to the failed bank.
Grant Thornton denied the claims on behalf of itself and two of the individuals, partners at the firm.
In a statement, it said: “Grant Thornton UK LLP, Steve Akers and Hossein Hamedani deny all of the claims made. We have all acted appropriately and in accordance with our professional responsibilities and legal obligations throughout. After years of speculation in the media, we will now have the opportunity to defend ourselves through the court process. Given that this is now a matter of legal proceedings, we will not be commenting further at this time.”
Tchenguiz’s home and offices in the upmarket Park Lane area of London were raided in March 2011, and the high-profile investigation is alleged to have had repercussions for his business empire.
The now abandoned case also involved Tchenguiz’s brother Robert, against whom all criminal investigations were also abandoned. He too has sued the SFO, reaching a settlement and receiving an apology. Vincent Tchenguiz used equity from his property business to provide collateral for a loan granted by Kaupthing to his brother. They had both been seeking £300m of damages from the SFO after the search warrants used in the raid were ruled to be illegal. The SFO was accused of “sheer incompetence” by the judge for failing to keep records of the information used to obtain the warrants.
Kaupthing’s winding-up committee said: “Neither Kaupthing nor Mr Johannsson have been served with court documents as yet, so we are not in a position to comment in detail. In any event it is not Kaupthing’s general policy to comment on specific business-related matters. What we can however say is that the allegations made by Vincent Tchenguiz about the conduct of Kaupthing and Johannes Runar Johannsson have absolutely no basis in fact or in law and will be very vigorously contested.”
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