A partner at international firm Dechert was reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority over alleged human rights abuses in the Middle East, the High Court heard today, and was ‘deliberately menacing and threatening’ towards an aviation tycoon during a Gulf dispute.

Neil Gerrard, global co-head of Dechert’s white collar and securities litigation practice, told the High Court today he had carried out interviews in Ras Al Khaimah, an emirate of the United Arab Emirates, when acting for the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA).

Under cross-examination, Gerrard said he had interviewed a former general counsel of RAKIA who, according to Tim Lord QC, of Brick Court Chambers, had been detained in Ras Al Khaimah for a year without charge.

Lord, appearing for the defendant Farhad Azima, asked: ‘So can his Lordship take it that in your view it is appropriate or acceptable to imprison someone for up to a year without charging them?...Can his Lordship take it that you consider it appropriate to go and interview a person who has been imprisoned in the manner that we've just seen?’

Gerrard replied: ‘In these circumstances, My Lord, yes it was [appropriate], because there was substantial evidence against him… He had his own lawyers present and was perfectly happy with the situation.’ He added that the UAE has 'its own process’ of detainment. 'It's not like ours – many parts of it are – and he agreed to talk to us whilst he was detained.'

Lord suggested that Gerrard took an ‘overly muscular approach’ to investigations and ‘had a tendency to get carried away’. He referred to a separate alleged occasion in Ras Al Khaimah when Gerrard was accused of threatening the wife of a detained interviewee. The incident, denied by Gerrard, was referred to the SRA but no action was taken by the regulator. 

Gerrard was giving evidence in Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority v Azima. RAKIA has brought claims against airline operator Azima, accusing him of breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation and unlawful means conspiracy.

According to Azima’s defence, RAKIA’s case relies on illegally hacked confidential data. Lord claimed that Gerrard had inside knowledge of the data, telling the court: ‘You knew by August 2016 that RAKIA had already procured this confidential information on Mr Azima. Therefore you knew the August discovery was a charade to bring this data into the open so RAKIA could begin to make use of it.’

Lord also said Gerrard had adopted a ‘deliberately menacing and threatening approach’ in a meeting with Azima and had ‘lost his temper and become angry’. 

Gerrard told the court that he had never been involved in the orchestration of illegal detentions and had never seen evidence of torture in Ras Al Khaimah. He added that he had had no part in the illegal hacking of emails. 

The hearing, expected to run for four weeks in the Rolls Building, continues.