International firm Dechert’s head of white collar crime was questioned in court today over his role in a dispute between an aviation tycoon and a United Arab Emirates government body.
According to the defence submissions in Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority v Azima, Neil Gerrard, global co-head of Dechert’s white collar and securities litigation practice, told businessman Farhad Azima he would become ‘collateral damage’ in action taken by the sovereign investment fund of Ras al Khaimah emirate into an alleged $2bn fraud.
Azima was assisting in the mediation of a dispute between the investment fund and its former chief executive, Dr Massaad, while Gerrard was acting for the fund. Azima claims that Gerrard told him that if Massaad would not agree to a settlement, he ‘would be made “collateral damage” in a war that [the fund] would then wage on Dr Massaad. Mr Azima understood this statement to be a threat.’ Azima also alleges that his emails were hacked and published on the dark web by the investment fund.
The High Court heard today that Dechert, along with international firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, had tried to influence the outcomes of Ras al Khaimah cases being held in Georgia. For Azima, Tim Lord QC, of Brick Court Chambers, said lawyers from Dechert and Pillsbury ‘tried to influence the judicial process’ by ‘trying to place certain Ras al Khaimah cases in front of certain members of the Georgian judiciary’.
Lord QC also said that Gerrard had taken part in an interview in Ras Al Khaimah where the interviewee was threatened with imprisonment if he did not pay ‘a substantial sum of money’.
For the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority, Hugh Tomlinson QC, of Matrix Chambers, questioned the notion of ‘dungeons and illegal detentions orchestrated by Dechert’. Under cross examination, Jamie Buchanan, who worked for the emirate’s sheikh, said that such illegal detentions did not take place to his knowledge and he did not know of any dungeons in the sheikh’s palace.
Azima himself faces action by the investment fund over breach of trust and the misrepresentation of a joint venture, among other things.
The hearing, expected to run for four weeks in the Rolls Building, continues.