Peter Gray, a former Gibson Dunn partner, has been struck off a mere six years after he was found to have knowingly misled a High Court judge about a grenade attack in Africa.
Gray was instructed by the government of Djibouti in its long-running feud with opposition leader Abdourahman Boreh, a wealthy businessman who had been sentenced by the Djibouti courts to 15 years in prison in 2010 for ordering a grenade strike on a Djibouti supermarket in March 2009, and who was living in exile in Belgravia.
The Djibouti government's terrorism case against Boreh hinged on phone calls which Boreh made on 5 March, the day after the grenade attack, in which Boreh was recorded saying, "Last night the act was completed in the first district", and, "The people heard it and it had a deep resonance".
Boreh insisted that he had been talking about handing out anti-government leaflets, but the incriminating date of the calls enabled Djibouti prosecutors to secure a conviction.
Gray used the same evidence to obtain a $100 million freezing order against Boreh's assets from Mr Justice Flaux, now Lord Justice Flaux, in the Commercial Court in September 2013.
There was just one problem. A month before Gray presented Flaux with the date evidence, Deborah Ngo Yogo, then a Gibson Dunn associate in Paris, had run a check on the call logs of Boreh's intercepted conversations.
Ngo Yogo noticed that the transcripts themselves were dated 4 March, not 5 March, and meant that Boreh's calls were made before the grenade attack, and couldn't possibly have captured Boreh discussing the aftermath of the strike, as it hadn't happened yet.
Ngo Yogo emailed her discovery to Sana Merchant, another Gibson Dunn associate in Gray's Djibouti team. Merchant forwarded it to Gray, writing, "Unless I am missing something, this would be a very large discrepancy". Gray replied, "It was very well spotted of you to notice the dates. Many people would not have checked and disaster would most certainly have followed".
But instead of informing the court that the basis on which the freezing order was being pursued was fatally flawed, the 39-year-old partner told his team, "we can get away with the date error". Meeting notes recorded Gray explaining that he was "going to fudge the error of the date, it doesn't affect the underlying evidence".
After the order was granted, Gray set about using Flaux's judgment in submissions to Interpol and other law enforcement agencies to get Boreh extradited, so that he might be delivered into the hands of Djibouti's security forces.
However, a year later, in September 2014, Boreh's solicitors, Byrne & Partners, uncovered the date discrepancy. They wrote to Gray asking him to confirm that the court had been misled and that Djibouti's case was unsustainable.
Gray told Khawar Qureshi QC, the barrister acting for Djibouti, that Byrne's points were "bollocks" and "a storm in a teacup", and directed him to send an evasive response.
When Mark Handley, then a senior associate in Gray's team based in London, suggested sifting through their Djibouti emails to establish how the wrong date had not been removed and when Gibson Dunn first knew about it, Gray emailed back within minutes: "This is a waste of time. Please do not do that. All you are likely to find is that on date X we realised the error, addressed it and moved on. Is that something you think it is appropriate to admit to the court? Would you like me to publicly apportion blame on other lawyers?"
In his devastating judgment in 2015 overturning the freezing order on the basis that he had been deliberately misled by Gray, Flaux said Gray's email to Handley was "disgraceful", comprising a "wholly wrong" attempt to suggest that other lawyers were also to blame.
Flaux said that Gray had been given the opportunity to accept an error had been made when Bryne & Partners wrote to him, "which is what it seems to me any honest solicitor conscious of his duties to the court would have done", but instead Gray embarked upon a "descent into what became even more evasive conduct".
Six years after Gibson Dunn was ordered to pay £800,000 towards Boreh's costs and booted the partner, Gray appeared before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal where he again claimed ignorance.
Gray's counsel said that in the 2013 hearing, the partner missed the conversations between Flaux and Qureshi about the crucial date because he was emailing his Djibouti client, who wasn’t paying him $800 an hour "to sit and listen”. Gray had asked "two associates to independently check" the documents, and they had also missed the false date, he said.
Despite Gray's pleas that he was "brutally overworked" at the time, and that, despite repeated requests to Gibson Dunn, he was never given additional resources or partner support, the SDT found him guilty of dishonesty and struck him off, ordering him to pay costs of £42,525.