Dechert’s former head of white-collar crime Neil Gerrard’s ‘dishonest and unscrupulous’ conduct has been cited as the ‘most significant’ reason the sovereign investment fund of one of the United Arab Emirates has dropped its defence to a High Court hacking claim, the Gazette has learned.
Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority – which previously instructed Gerrard to investigate an alleged fraud by RAKIA’s former chief executive – has offered to settle aviation tycoon Farhad Azima’s case for $1m (£815,000) plus costs and ‘decided to take no further part in these proceedings’.
The decision comes in the aftermath of an excoriating ruling in which Gerrard was found to have leaked another former client’s confidential information to three newspapers and the Serious Fraud Office and ‘plainly lied’ on oath.
The former Metropolitan Police officer, 67, also unnecessarily expanded his probe into allegations of bribery and corruption against Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation because he was ‘obsessed with making money’, Mr Justice Waksman said last month.
Gerrard has been dropped, as revealed by the Gazette this week, by solicitors who acted for both him and Dechert in five separate cases, including Azima’s case. Last month counsel for two Jordanian lawyers who are suing Gerrard and Dechert suggested the firm was ‘about to throw Mr Gerrard under the bus’.
The findings in Waksman’s judgment are one of ‘a number of developments which have led RAKIA to reassess its position’ in Azima’s hacking claim and withdraw from the proceedings, according to a letter sent by RAKIA to the High Court, which has been seen by the Gazette.
Gerrard had been found to be ‘a dishonest witness who engaged in serious wrongdoing and ethical violations towards a client’, RAKIA said. It added: ‘In the light of these developments, it appears that RAKIA and its officers may have been the victims of dishonest and unscrupulous former third-party advisers who have taken steps to advance their own interests for their own gains and at RAKIA’s expense.’
RAKIA ‘did not authorise or procure any hacking of Mr Azima’s data and does not know who carried out this hacking’ and the decision to withdraw from the case is ‘a commercial decision’, the letter states.
It also said RAKIA is ‘content for judgment to be entered against it, for damages to be assessed and … will take all necessary steps to ensure that such a judgment is satisfied’ if Azima does not accept its offer.
RAKIA, Gerrard and Dechert are alleged to have been involved in the hacking and publication of Azima’s emails ahead of a High Court fraud trial, after which Azima was found to have engaged in ‘seriously fraudulent conduct’ against RAKIA and his hacking counterclaim was dismissed.
Azima’s application for permission to appeal against the fraud judgment was dismissed – and rejected by the Supreme Court in April – but his counterclaim was revived by the Court of Appeal, which found there were grounds to consider whether RAKIA’s defence was ‘dishonestly advanced’.
The High Court has since heard claims that Gerrard put key witnesses through ‘perjury school’ at a boutique Swiss hotel ahead of the trial of RAKIA’s action against Azima to rehearse a false account about the ‘innocent discovery’ of his emails online.
Dechert and Gerrard, in their joint written defence filed in April, said Gerrard attended the meeting in Switzerland to explain ‘the process of giving evidence’ to a private investigator and that ‘Gerrard did not conduct a “mock trial” as alleged or at all’. Dechert and Gerrard ‘strenuously deny’ any part in the hacking or dissemination of Azima’s data.
However, RAKIA said in its defence that the meeting was ‘outside the scope of [Dechert’s] retainer and instructions and RAKIA was not made aware that it was taking place’.
A spokesperson for RAKIA said ‘there have been a number of developments which have led RAKIA to reassess its position’ in relation to Azima’s claim, ‘most significantly’ Waksman’s ruling. They added that RAKIA has offered Azima $1m plus costs – which ‘significantly exceeds the maximum amount of damages that Mr Azima could ever recover in his counterclaim’ – to ensure that he is ‘not prejudiced’ by its decision.
A spokesperson for Dechert said: ‘The allegations against the firm are denied and we are defending the claim.’ Representatives for Azima and Gerrard did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
A spokesperson for Azima said: ‘We welcome RAKIA finally accepting that Mr Azima was the victim of serious criminal wrongdoing. Mr Azima will achieve justice against all perpetrators.
‘The amount of compensation due from RAKIA to Mr Azima remains unagreed. We trust it will be determined shortly, given the scale and seriousness of the criminal activity coordinated against Mr Azima.’