Knowles about to open a can of Whoop Ass
A judge has referred two lawyers to the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board, in a judgment where Nigeria successfully challenged a $11 billion arbitration award made against the country.
This week, in the case of Federal Republic of Nigeria v Process & Industrial Development Ltd, the High Court granted an application to overturn the gigantic award, which had been given in 2017 to P&ID (an oil and gas company) over a collapsed gas deal, on the grounds that it was "obtained by fraud".
The judge, Mr Justice Knowles, found that P&ID had got the sum "only by practising the most severe abuses of the arbitral process".
Knowles slammed P&ID, and certain individuals connected with it, saying they had committed bribery throughout the arbitration, and had submitted and relied on knowingly false evidence. He said those individuals were "driven by greed and prepared to use corruption; giving no thought to what their enrichment would mean in terms of harm for others."
The judge said that he would refer a copy of the judgment to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and Bar Standards Board in relation to the conduct of two English lawyers for P&ID: Trevor Burke KC of Three Raymond Buildings, and Seamus Andrew, managing partner of Veltior.
Nigeria's lawyers had argued that certain internal legal documents provided to P&ID in the course of the arbitration were subject to legal privilege.
The judge said that "as legal professionals" Andrew and Burke appreciated that the internal documents "at least included documents that were privileged."
The judge lambasted the two lawyers, stating they "knew that P&ID and they were not entitled to see these documents," and their decision not to inform Nigeria or immediately return the documents "was indefensible".
The judge deemed that it was "untrue" when Andrew stated in oral evidence "that the documents were shared as part of settlement discussions".
"The reason Mr Andrew and Mr Burke KC behaved in this way was because of the money they hoped to make," he said. The judge stated that they, among others, "have very significant personal interests in this matter," contingent upon success for P&ID. "The figures are up to £850m in the case of Mr Burke KC and up to £3bn in the case of Mr Andrew," he said.
The judge added that he trusted the regulators would "consider the professional consequences of the conduct of Mr Burke KC and Mr Andrew in relation to Nigeria’s internal legal documents."
Seamus Andrew said in a statement that: "I do not accept the criticisms in the judgment concerning Nigeria’s internal legal documents. I believe that I acted in accordance with my professional duties, which included a strict duty of confidentiality to my client. I am confident that my conduct will in due course be vindicated by my regulator, with whom I shall be cooperating fully."
"I respectfully disagree with the trial judge’s finding that I gave two instances of untrue evidence. These findings are not supported by any analysis, and are contrary to the Judge’s clear finding that I did my best to answer the questions asked of me carefully and accurately. I appeared voluntarily as a witness to assist the court, providing substantial written evidence and three days of oral testimony, and I have cooperated fully throughout."
Andrew added: “I am considering my rights of appeal as a witness.”
Burke has also rejected the judge's findings against him, according to a report in the Law Gazette, stating: "I do not accept the criticism that have been made of me in relation to Nigeria’s internal legal documents. I gave my evidence in the English proceedings in good faith and to the best of my ability."
"I am confident that my conduct will be exonerated by my professional body with whom I shall cooperate fully," Burke added.
Mishcon de Reya, who acted for Nigeria said in a statement: "This is a hugely important decision for the people of Nigeria given the significant financial implications that the enforcement of a judgment this size would have had on the Nigerian economy."
Shaistah Akhtar, the Mishcon partner who led Nigeria's legal team, said: "We are pleased that the Judge recognised the severity of the fraud perpetrated against the people of Nigeria in his judgment, and trust that this landmark decision will deter other potential fraudsters and their backers from exploiting the legal system in the pursuit of monetary gain."