Civil fraud and asset recovery

We have extensive expertise in acting in fraud litigation and asset preservation and recovery, including in complex commercial fraud cases, both onshore and offshore. Our members include recognised leaders in the civil fraud field and have been involved in cases which have made significant developments to the law in this area.

We act across the full spectrum of civil fraud claims including those based on misrepresentation, breach of duty, conspiracy, and accessory liability and at all stages in bringing or defending a claim. Our work includes:

  • freezing, search and disclosure orders (whether against a cause of action defendant or third party)
  • receivership orders (pre- and post-judgment)
  • committal proceedings (pre- and post- judgment) brought on allegations of contempt
  • jurisdictional issues
  • all advisory and interim stages
  • trial
  • enforcement, including insolvency proceedings

Our experience in related areas such as company, insolvency, banking and financial services, property and trusts law ensures expert and comprehensive representation and advice.

Rankings and recognition

Wilberforce is ranked as a leading civil fraud chambers in both Chambers & Partners and The Legal 500.

Chambers & Partners UK 2024: Wilberforce Chambers houses a strong bench of experienced barristers who are regularly instructed in high-value and multi-jurisdictional civil fraud disputes. The team is noted for its expert handling of cases involving offshore jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands and the BVI, as well as matters arising in Asia and Europe. Members offer expertise in claims stemming from allegations of misrepresentation, conspiracy and breach of duty. Cases involving complex jurisdictional issues and contempt proceedings are also key areas of strength for the set. Recent work handled by the set’s tenants includes acting in Bourlakova & Others v Borulakov & Others, a USD3 billion fraud claim alleging defrauding of creditors and dishonest breaches of fiduciary duty in the drawing up and execution of an oligarch’s will.

The Legal 500 UK 2024: A ‘wonderful full-service set that engages in a modern and commercial way with instructing solicitors‘, Wilberforce Chambers‘ civil fraud work is closely aligned to the set’s enviable offshore practice. In Bourlakova v Bourlakov, Alan Gourgey KC acts for the principal defendant in a high-profile claim concerning ownership of approximately $3bn of assets. John Wardell KC represented a shopping centre magnate in his defence of a €55m claim brought against him by the Bank of Ireland, which claimed that he had lied about his assets and liabilities in a statement of affairs. Clare Stanley KC also routinely acts in major fraud cases; and in a boost to chambers, Thomas Grant KC, an expert in obtaining and defending freezing and related interim orders, joined from Maitland Chambers in October 2022.

Chambers Bar Awards 2023: Wilberforce wins Set of the Year and Chancery Set of the Year

Chambers Bar Awards 2023Tim Penny KC wins Chancery Silk of the Year

The Legal 500 Bar Awards 2022: Wilberforce wins Chancery Set of the Year

Chambers Bar Awards 2022Clare Stanley KC wins Chancery Silk of the Year

Chambers Bar Awards 2021Thomas Grant KC wins Chancery Silk of the Year

Notable cases

Lim and others v Ong [2024]

The Defendant was sentenced to 22 months immediate imprisonment in respect of a vast array of contempts of court, including dealing and dissipating assets in breach of a worldwide freezing order, providing inaccurate ancillary asset disclosure inflating his true asset position, providing false affidavit evidence seeking to justify dissipation, and 59 breaches of the standard form weekly living allowance.

The underlying claim pertained to a property investment fraud perpetrated by the first defendant, and orchestrated through a group of companies (some, but not all of which, were defendants to the proceedings). The defendants were the subject of a wide ranging worldwide freezing order and other injunctions including a quia timet injunction with respect to directorships of certain SPVs.

Read the full judgment

JSC BTA Bank v Sabyrbaev and others [2024]

Judgment handed down by the BVI Commercial Court in what is the latest episode in the global Ablyazov litigation; in this claim against 54 defendants, Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank alleges it has been the victim of a fraudulent scheme involving the issue of high letters of credit resulting in losses of approximately US$230 million.

The judgment provides a comprehensive survey of the law applicable to service out of the jurisdiction in the BVI, including the duty of full and frank disclosure, and provides a salutary warning to litigants seeking to use BVI incorporated ‘Anchor Defendants’ as a hook through which to bring their real targets within the jurisdiction of the BVI courts.

Read the full judgment

Navigator v Deripaska [2023]

Successfully appeared at the trial of the contempt application against the well-known businessman, arising out of very high-profile litigation which has dominated the Commercial Court for many years.

Suppipat & Others v Narongdej & 16 Others [2023]

  • One of The Lawyer’s Top 20 cases of 2022, which also went into 2023

Leading Counsel for D1 (the main defendant) and D17 in this US$1Bn claim for damages under Thai law and relief under s.423 Insolvency Act 1986 arising from an alleged fraud and asset-stripping in connection with dealings in the shares of a Thai Wind Farm Company. The trial of the Claim lasted 20 weeks before Calver J in the Commercial Court between October 2022 and March 2023.

Read the full judgment

Invest Bank v El-Husseini and Others [2023]

In a judgment handed down on 20 September 2023 following the trial of preliminary issues, the Deputy Judge of the Commercial Court held that it is not a rule of private international law that a final and binding foreign judgment on the merits must be enforceable in the foreign jurisdiction before it could be the subject of an application to ‘enforce’ the foreign judgment in this jurisdiction by a claim at common law, and dismissed the sixth defendant’s application to set aside a default judgment the claimant had obtained against the first defendant, as (i) there was accordingly no arguable defence, and (ii) the sixth defendant had not satisfied the Denton criteria.

Read the full judgment

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC v Shetty & others [2022]

A US$1 Billion damages claim, which arose out of the collapse of NMC PLC, a former FTSE 100 company, and its operating subsidiaries in the UAE, all of which are now in administration in England and Wales and the UAE. The claimant is an Abu Dhabi-based bank, and the first to third defendants are the former private shareholders in NMC PLC. The Bank alleged that the defendants are responsible, with others, for a serious fraud that appears to have taken place within the NMC Group of companies. The defendants all deny involvement in the fraud.

Read the full judgment

Raiffeisen Bank v. Scully Royalty Ltd & Others [2022]

A multi-million euro, multi-faceted fraud claim in the Cayman Islands that made new law on the Cayman Fraudulent Dispositions Law.

Read the full judgment

Steenbok Newco and another v Formal Holdings and others [2022]

South Africa’s largest ever private sector accounting fraud scandal. Alleged payments totalling approximately €95 million are said to have been made fraudulently. The case raises issues of German, Austrian, Swiss and BVI law.

Read the full judgment

The Libyan Investment Authority v Credit Suisse and others [2021]

The latest chapter in the long running and high-profile litigation instigated by the LIA seeking to recoup funds invested during the Gaddafi dictatorship in Libya. Successfully defended fraud and corruption claims to the value of £200m.

Read the full judgment

Akhmedova v Akhmedov [2021]

Proceedings across multiple jurisdictions and involve inter alia efforts to enforce against a yacht formerly owned by Mr Abramovich which is currently under arrest in Dubai. Case also involved alleged transactions in defraud of creditors contrary to section 423 of the Insolvency Act. After successfully representing Mrs Akhmedova in this case, Alan Gourgey KC was named Times Lawyer of the Week.

Read the full judgment

AHAB v SAAD [2021]

One of the largest frauds ever perpetrated involving some 118 banks which together lent a total of $126 billion over two decades.

Read the full judgment

Meridian Trust v Eike Batista [2020]

A case involving the first statutory free-standing worldwide freezing order in Cayman. The first common law case in which a freezing injunction was granted over claims for American treble damages under RICO. Fraud resulted in losses of $5bn, with the lead claim being for $60m.

Read the full judgment

Lemos v Blue Diamond Corporation and Stegasis Corporation [2020]

A complex multi-jurisdictional case involving one of Greece’s largest shipping families and their ownership of shares in two Liberian Corporations, which raises multiple conflicts of law issues and matters relating to fraudulent misappropriation of shares.

Read the full judgment

Gerald Metals v Frank Timis and others / Gerald Metals v Cape Lambert / Gerald Metals v Red Metal [2020]

Gerald Metals, a trading company which brought a claim in deceit and in unlawful means conspiracy (based on s.423 Insolvency Act 1986) against a large number of trustees and individuals. The dispute was very significant and worth around £100 million.

 

Takhar v Gracefield Developments Limited [2019]

Supreme Court case establishing that a person who applies to set aside an earlier judgment on the basis of fraud does not have to demonstrate that the evidence of this fraud could not have been obtained with reasonable diligence before the earlier trial.

Read the full judgment

Libyan Investment Authority v JP Morgan and others [2019]

Acted for one of the successful defendants in his jurisdiction challenge – a Libyan businessman against whom a claim had been brought by the Libyan Investment Authority alleging fraud and corruption in relation to transactions that it had entered into with Bear Stearns bank in 2007.

Read the full judgment

Takhar v Gracefield Developments [2019]

Supreme Court case establishing that a person who applies to set aside an earlier judgment on the basis of fraud does not have to demonstrate that the evidence of this fraud could not have been obtained with reasonable diligence before the earlier trial.

Read the full judgment

National Trust Bank v Yurov & others [2019]

US$1billion claim for dishonest breach of duty against the shareholder directors arising from the collapse of Russia’s 16th largest bank.

Read the full judgment

JSC BM Bank v Kekhman [2018]

A claim made by a Russian Bank against a “banana oligarch” for damages for deceit and unlawful means conspiracy in respect of a loan made to a Russian group of companies. The judgment is of note by identifying principles for inferring fraud.

Read the full judgment

 

Pensions Regulator v PAYAE and others [2018]

The Pensions Regulator’s first fraud claim to go to trial.

Read the full judgment

 

Insights View all thought leadership

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    Articles

    A Nigerian tragedy: how to set aside a US$11 billion arbitral award

    John Grocott-Barrett and Ernest Leung have written an article for TL4’s FIRE Starters magazine on ‘A Nigerian tragedy: how to set aside a US$11 billion arbitral award’, where they analyse Federal Republic of Nigeria v Process and Industrial Developments Limited.... Read more

    By John Grocott-Barrett | Ernest Leung
    Monday 4 March 2024

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    Recent Cases

    Lim and others v Ong

    Civil fraud and asset recovery, Commercial disputes, Company law

    James Bailey KC | James Goodwin
    Wednesday 21 February 2024

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    Recent Cases

    JSC BTA Bank v Sabyrbaev and others

    Civil fraud and asset recovery, Banking and financial services, Commercial disputes, International / offshore

    Thomas Grant KC | Tara Taylor
    Friday 9 February 2024

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    News

    Leading junior James Man joins Wilberforce Chambers

    Wilberforce is delighted to announce that James Man has joined Chambers. James’s established reputation and experience in commercial and trusts disputes adds to the existing pool of talent in our core specialist areas and supports our litigation and arbitration practices... Read more

    Wednesday 31 January 2024

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Upcoming events View all events

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    Events / Webinars

    Civil Fraud Conference 2024

    Thursday 4th July 2024 | 12.15pm - 6pm, followed by drinks and canapés
    The View at The Royal College of Surgeons

    Price TBC

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Past events View all past events

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    External Conferences

    Asset Recovery International 2024

    Thursday 29th February 2024
    The Conrad, Dublin

    Speakers:
    Emily McKechnie

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    External Conferences

    TL4 – KC Surgery: Asset Recovery

    Tuesday 28th November 2023
    Central London

    Speakers:
    Thomas Grant KC | Tim Penny KC | Jessica Brooke | Elizabeth Houghton

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    Events / Webinars

    Wilberforce Fraud, Trusts & Asset Recovery Conference 2023

    Wednesday 8th November 2023 | 12.45pm - 5.30pm, followed by drinks
    Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch, London

    £120 + VAT | 3.5 CPD

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    External Conferences

    TL4 x Keidan Harrison & Fieldfisher: Risks and Opportunities in the GCC Region for Disputes, Insolvency and Asset Recovery Practitioners

    Monday 16th October 2023 | 5.30pm - 9.00pm
    Fieldfisher London, Riverbank House, 2 Swan Lane, London, EC4R 3TT

    Free to attend

    Speakers:
    Bobby Friedman

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