A former partner in a law firm created fictitious court hearings and judgments and made up conversations with other firms in a three-year deception, a court has heard.
Mr Justice Hamblen, sitting in the High Court in Islamic Investment Company of the Gulf (Bahamas Ltd) v Symphony Gems and Rajesh Kishor Mehta and Vijay Kumar Kirtilal Mehta said the story behind Andrew Benson’s false-document technique was so extraordinary that it ‘could have come from one of A P Herbert’s [satirical books] Misleading Cases’.
He agreed to set aside a court ruling made while Benson was advising the client.
The court had heard that Benson, then a partner in London firm Byrne & Partners LLP, purported to act for Rajesh Mehta from October 2010 to December 2013.
Hamblen’s judgment says that the false litigation involved fictitious hearings before the Commercial Court and the Court of Appeal, purported judgments of those courts, purported sealed court orders, a purported hearing transcript, purported skeleton arguments, purported correspondence with court officials and the claimant’s solicitors, Norton Rose, the fictitious instruction and engagement of various counsel, and telephone conferences involving the impersonation of his senior partner and of leading counsel.
Hamblen said none of this ‘reflected reality’ and that throughout the period there was in fact no contact with Norton Rose or the court.
The judge noted that Benson has been dismissed from the firm and is ‘under investigation by the Metropolitan Police and Solicitors Regulation Authority’.
Events led to a High Court case in which Mehta sought the setting aside of all adverse orders made against him during the time he was represented by Benson.
The ‘real litigation’, as Hamblen called it, dates back more than 10 years and arises from a finance agreement between the claimants, an Islamic investment company and a group of diamond traders.
The defendants, including Mehta, were ordered to pay the claimants around £6.4m. The sum has now risen to almost £9m, but none has been paid back, leading to a series of unsuccessful attempts to obtain payment.
The current application sought the setting aside of an order made in October 2010 by which the judge activated an earlier suspended committal order. By this time Benson was purportedly acting for Mehta.
Hamblen granted the setting aside of the 2010 order but refused the application in relation to all other court orders.
The judge said it was a case which raises ‘serious concerns’ about the circumstances in which the order was made.
‘There is good reason to believe that [Mehta’s] own solicitor, a man who has been shown to be dishonest, was acting against his interests,’ he said.
‘It is axiomatic that justice must be both done and seen to be done. In the circumstances of the present case in my judgment that requires the setting aside of the [order] unconditionally.’
The judge said neither Benson nor Byrne & Partners were party to the proceedings, nor were they represented. Any findings he made were on the basis of the evidence before the court and for the purpose of this application only.
A spokesman for Byrne & Partners said: ‘We can confirm that Andrew Benson left the firm immediately this matter came to light and we have cooperated fully with the SRA and the Metropolitan Police.’