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John Wardell QC

Call: 1979    QC: 2002

+44 (0)20 7306 0102jwardell@wilberforce.co.uk

Commercial

John is ranked as a ‘leading silk’ in the Commercial and Chancery Commercial categories in Chambers Global, in Chancery Commercial, Civil Fraud, Commercial Dispute Resolution in Chambers & Partners’ UK edition, and in Commercial Litigation, Company and Civil Fraud in The Legal 500 UK.

“He is one of an increasingly rare breed of advocates who do not just turn up to deliver a prepared speech but can and do react to developments fully and have an instinct about when and when not to go in for the kill. There have been times during Wardell’s cross-examination which have contained moments of sublime drama which have been better than anything I have seen at the Royal Shakespeare Company and in those moments I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else but in that courtroom.” (Chambers & Partners, 2020)

His commercial practice is very broad and embraces disputes involving companies, joint venture agreements and partnerships. Many of his cases have an international dimension
and involve allegations of fraud.

Many of John’s commercial cases involve claims for breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duty.

Recent cases include:

  • Takhar v Gracefield Developments Ltd [2020] AC 450. The Supreme Court decided that John was correct in his contention that a litigant who seeks to set aside a judgment obtained by fraud did not need to show that he could not have discovered the fraud by reasonable diligence. The Supreme Court’s video recording of this case can be viewed here.
  • Bilta v RBS [2020] EWHC 546. John acts for RBS in the defence of an £80 million claim brought by liquidators of a number of companies caught up in an MTIC fraud involving carbon credits. The allegation against RBS was that its traders dishonestly assisted breaches of fiduciary duty committed by the directors of those companies and/or that they were knowing parties to fraudulent trading. Despite these allegations being strongly denied by the Bank, the case succeeded at first instance.  The decision is likely to be appealed.
  • Algosaibi v Saad (2019). This was a claim for over US$4 billion brought in the Cayman Islands. It is by far the biggest fraud claim ever heard there arising out of one of the biggest frauds in any jurisdiction. The claim was dismissed after a trial lasting a year. John was brought in to try and rectify the position. The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal heard the appeal over 20 days in the summer of 2019. Judgment is awaited.
  • N v Royal Bank of Scotland Plc [2019] EWHC 1770. John successfully defended the bank from a claim brought by a payment institution arising out of the without notice termination of its relationship because it was considered that its client accounts were being used for fraud and money laundering.
  • Grupo Mexico v Garcia [2019] EWCA Civ 1673. John appeared for the Claimant and successfully argued that a limited partnership that was being used by a fraudster to pursue a claim worth many hundreds of millions in Mexico should be struck off the register. This is now under The judgment at first instance was upheld by the Court of Appeal.  The case is now going to the Supreme Court.
  • Sabbagh v Khoury [2019] EWCA Civ 1219. John obtained an anti-arbirtration injunction preventing the defendants from pursuing a foreign arbitration in circumstances where to allow it to continue would be vexatious and oppressive because of ongoing proceedings in England.
  • Staechelin v ACLBDD Holdings Limited [2019] EWCA 817. Claim for commission arising out of the sale of Gauguin’s Nafea faa ipoipo for $210 million.
  • Ieremeiva v Lagur and Ivakhiv. Acting for wife of deceased oligarch seeking to show that her inheritance had been defeated by a forged trust deed.
  • In the Matter of the Torchlight Fund LP (2018). John was brought in as replacement counsel to defend a bitterly contested just and equitable winding up petition brought by activist investors against the General Partner of a private equity fund in the Grand Court of the Cayman The principal allegation was that the General Partner was a crook who could not be trusted with his clients funds. At that time, the advice being given was that the case was likely to lose, in which event John’s clients would have lost in excess of AUS$300 million as well as having their reputations destroyed.  The case settled before judgment after a 43 day trial but the Judge was so incensed by the conduct of the Petitioners (including representatives of two New Zealand Government agencies) that he insisted on giving judgment exonerating the General Partner.
  • PCP-LLP v Barclays Bank (2018). John spent three years acting for the Claimant (a company controlled by Amanda Staveley) in this high-profile multi-million fraud claim for deceit against Barclays arising out of the rescue of Barclays at the time of the financial crash.
  • Sabbagh v Khoury [2017] EWCA Civ 1120. This is a multi-million dollar claim in conspiracy brought by Ms Sabbagh against her brothers and the Khourys who now control the business founded by her father. The Court of Appeal held that the claimant had a real prospect of establishing a claim of conspiracy to deprive her of her entitlement to shares in the eighth defendant company.  The Court of Appeal also refused a mandatory stay of the proceedings under an arbitration clause. Ackerman v Thornhill [2017] EWHC 99. John acted for the Second to Fourth Defendants who successfully applied to have the claim set aside on grounds of res judicata/abuse of process.
  • Excalibur Ventures LLC v Texas Keystone [2016] EWCA Civ 1144. Acting for one of the funders who advanced £13.5 million to support the disastrous claim brought by Excalibur against Texas Keystone and who were ordered to pay costs on an indemnity basis even though no personal criticism could be levelled at him.
  • Actial Farmaceutica Lda v De Simone [2016] EWCA 1311. The Court of Appeal held that Regulation 44/2001 art.5(3) did not apply to give the English court jurisdiction to hear claims of unlawful means conspiracy and unlawful interference with contracts against defendants domiciled in Italy or Switzerland which had prevented the appellant from distributing goods in the UK.  It considered that the harmful event was the non-delivery of the goods to its packaging agents in Italy and the Netherlands.
  • Acting on claims against a solicitors firm and a trust company for substantial compensation for professional negligence and breaches of trust arising out of the wrongful diversion of trust monies to a new trust structure set up by them for the claimant’s brother in law.
  • Zarbafi v Zarbafi [2014]. Acting on a family dispute where properties and other assets have allegedly been utilised contrary to the terms of the trusts on which they were said to be held.
  • Salford Capital Partners v Kenneth Krys [2014]. Acting on a claim against the liquidators of a limited partnership in the BVI concerning their failure to comply with the terms of the partnership agreement relating to the valuation of the partnership’s assets (which are worth over US $1bn).
  • R P Explorer Master Fund v Malhotra [2014]. Acting in the defence of a US $70m claim for damages for conspiracy arising out of a scheme to build an oil refinery in India.
  • Acting for the Claimant in a $60 million claim arising out of the failure to honour the terms of a share sale agreement relating to the sale of shares in a company which was the ultimate owner of two Russian banks.
  • Matchtrack v Kirschel [2013]. Acting for the Claimant in respect of an unsuccessful joint venture agreement concerning a substantial commercial property in Central London.
  • Apex Global Management Limited v FiCall Limited and Others [2013]. Acting for the Defendants in relation to a multi-million pound shareholders’ dispute between the shareholders of FiCall.
  • Logue v PGGL and the Candy Brothers [2013]. Acting for the Claimant in a claim for damages sustained as a result of a conspiracy whereby the Defendants sought to forfeit deposits that had been paid by the Claimant for an apartment at One Hyde Park, retain the increase in value on that apartment and share in any recovery made in proceedings brought against him in the United States.
  • Stone v National Westminster Bank [2013] EWHC 208. Acting for the Defendant bank in successfully defending a £20 million claim arising out of a Ponzi scheme operated by one of the Bank’s customers.
  • Fortress Value Recovery Fund LLC v Blue Skye Special Opportunities Fund LP [2012]. Acting for one of the Defendants accused of being involved in a complex fraud which involved the diversion of substantial assets in an investment portfolio to a new structure in breach of trust.
  • Tsang v Tsang [2011]. Acting for the former wife of a dollar billionaire, who was being sued by her ex father-in-law for fraud. After objecting to the High Court exercising jurisdiction, John successfully appeared for the wife in parallel proceedings in Singapore.
  • Jenington International v Assaubayev [2010]. Acting for the Defendants who were accused of masterminding a substantial fraud arising out of the sale of gold mines in Kazakhstan.