Dechert’s ex-head of white-collar crime made unauthorised contact with the Serious Fraud Office in order to whip up interest in a Kazakh mining case and increase his own legal fees, the commercial court has heard in a mammoth City negligence claim.

Kazakh-based mining company Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) accuses Neil Gerrard – former global co-head of white-collar crime at Dechert – of leaking confidential information to newspapers and drip-feeding material to the SFO to kickstart his case and provide the ‘fodder he needed to expand his investigation’.

‘Mr Gerrard completely turned on his client... and effectively invited the SFO to open a criminal investigation and to seize mountains of documents,’ Nathan Pillow QC, of Essex Court Chambers, said.

The court also heard about a lunch meeting at the Chelsea Brasserie in Sloane Square attended by Gerrard and two consultants. During the meeting, Gerrard allegedly said he was in ‘rape mode’, explaining that he wanted to get around £25m in legal fees from ENRC.

The negligence claim, which commenced remotely yesterday, relates to ENRC’s retainer of Dechert and Gerrard between 2011 and 2013. ENRC claims Gerrard was originally retained to conduct an internal investigation into allegations of wrongdoing concerning a subsidiary.

Dechert and Gerrard deny all wrongdoing, saying they did not act negligently or recklessly, and were not in breach of confidence, of contract or of fiduciary duty towards ENRC. ‘Rather, ENRC’s real complaint is that the defendants were too successful uncovering wrongdoing by certain of ENRC’s senior officers and executives, and those of its subsidiaries, including corrupt payments to senior government officials,’ Dechert and Gerrard said in their defence statement.

A spokesperson for the firm said: ‘We have vigorously denied the allegations made against us since they surfaced. We stand by the work we did and reject any suggestion that there was any unauthorised disclosure of information to the SFO.’

Dechert is due to begin oral submissions this afternoon. The trial continues.

ENRC is represented by Hogan Lovells, while Dechert and Gerrard are represented by Clyde & Co.