Robert Tchenguiz & Ors v Serious Fraud Office & Ors (2014)


It was not appropriate to allow the well-known businessman Robert Tchenguiz to deploy, in unrelated proceedings in Guernsey, documents disclosed by the Serious Fraud Office in the instant action, being a claim for damages arising from unlawful search warrants issued by the Serious Fraud Office.


The first claimant (R), who was pursuing a claim for damages against the defendant Serious Fraud Office (SFO), sought permission for certain steps to be taken under the CPR r.31.22(1)(b).

R had brought the instant action against the SFO after being the subject of a criminal investigation which resulted in no charges being brought. He sought to recover losses arising from unlawful search warrants issued by the SFO. Unrelated proceedings had been commenced in Guernsey. The parties to those proceedings included certain entities in which R had an interest as beneficiary, and the issues concerned certain inter-company loans between those entities. Judgment had been given but an appeal against that judgment was pending. The SFO had disclosed documents to R in the instant action which it had previously obtained from third parties as part of its original criminal investigation as well as other documents created by the SFO containing information from third parties and references relating thereto. R sought permission under r.31.22(1)(b) for (i) his lawyers to give certain documents which had been disclosed by the SFO to the lawyers instructed in the Guernsey action; (ii) his lawyers to give those documents to criminal counsel so that counsel could consider whether criminal offences had been committed by Grant Thornton UK LLP; (iii) the Guernsey lawyers (if so advised) to seek to have the documents admitted in evidence in the Guernsey action.


(1) Permission should be granted for the steps set out in (i) and (ii) above to be taken, primarily for the reasons given in earlier judgments, in particular the judgment given on April 29, 2014 (Tchenguiz v Director of the Serious Fraud Office [2014] EWHC 1315 (Comm), (2014) 164(7605) N.L.J. 20) (see para.11 of judgment). (2) It was not appropriate to permit R to deploy the relevant documents in the appeal which was being pursued in the Guernsey action. The court recognised the potential relevance of the documents to the Guernsey appeal and the fact that R's interests were very seriously affected by the Guernsey action. On the other hand, it was hard properly to evaluate the likely significance of the documents, and it had not been established that they were crucial or decisive. It was also a very weighty consideration that the documents contained information relating to a criminal investigation carried out by the SFO. They contained information as to the methodology employed by the SFO and the interaction between the SFO and the Guernsey authorities; there was a very strong public interest against permitting the use of such documents for collateral purposes. That public interest was further fortified by the fact that the documents related not merely to the steps taken by the SFO itself but to the interaction and co-operation between the SFO and the relevant Guernsey authorities pursuant to a specific request by the SFO for mutual legal assistance. To permit documents of that kind to be used for a collateral purpose (including the use of the documents in the Guernsey action) might jeopardise the willingness of foreign states to co-operate in respect of similar criminal investigations in the future (paras 26-30, 32).

Application granted in part