Significant win for fraud team in £65 million conspiracy claim

Our fraud team recently obtained a successful judgment in relation to a strike out of a £65 million fraud claim brought against seven defendants, including our client (a high net worth Swiss resident) in his capacity as a former director of the Bonhams auction house.

The claimant – Maranello Rosso Limited - was a Guernsey special purpose vehicle which was set up to acquire (and then sell, via auction) a collection of classic cars – comprising 33 Ferraris and 38 Abarths – from the owners of the Violati Maranello Rosso Museum in San Marino. The value of the collection was stated to be over £150 million.

The majority of the collection was subsequently sold, including at an auction in the USA where one of the cars generated a then world record price for a single vehicle (US$38 million). However, the cars in question were sold for significantly less than the claimant had hoped, and it subsequently commenced proceedings in the High Court in London against seven defendants (including the auction house Bonhams and one of its former directors, namely our client) who it claimed was responsible for its losses. In that regard, it was alleged, amongst other things, that the defendants had conspired together to injure the claimant by unlawful means (for example by allegedly misrepresenting the terms on which the collection would be auctioned). The amount claimed against the defendants totalled in excess of £65 million.

The defendants each applied in 2021 to strike out the claim. These applications were dealt with together at a 4 day hearing in May 2021 before His Honour Judge Keyser QC, sitting as a Judge of the High Court. In his subsequent 160 page judgment which was handed down on 6 September 2021, the Judge concluded that the claims being advanced were not reasonably arguable and that each of the strike out applications was accordingly successful. In addition, the claimant has been ordered to pay the costs of the defendants on the indemnity basis.

The claimant was represented by Mishcon de Reya. The defendants were represented by Morrison & Foerster, RPC, Kastle Solicitors and Foot Anstey. We instructed Robert Weekes of Blackstone Chambers as counsel for this matter.

Steven Richards, Partner said: "This judgment is a vindication for our client, is a testament to the hard work put in by counsel and the Foot Anstey team, and demonstrates our capabilities in the field of fraud and complex High Court commercial litigation."

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