Two law firms have secured contempt findings against former clients who have refused court orders to pay legal bills.
Following a three-day hearing in March, Mr Justice Morris found 14 charges proved to the criminal standard in Hassan Khan & Co v Al-Rawas & Anor in relation to the defendants’ non-disclosure of bank accounts and business interests.
Husband and wife Thamer Al-Shanfari and Iman Said Al-Rawas, both Omani nationals and resident in Oman, had instructed the inter-related London firms Hassan Khan & Co and the Khan Partnership LLP in substantial litigation between 2006 and 2009 in relation to sanctions over involvement with the Zimbabwean government.
Four years later, the firms started proceedings for unpaid bills and in March 2018 the High Court ordered the defendants to pay more than £1.16m.
The money has never been paid, and the judge said the defendants’ objective remained to ‘disrupt, frustrate and protract’ the proceedings, after taking an informed and deliberate decision not to participate at various hearings and not to engage with the claimants or the court.
The judge invited both parties, including the defendants who did not take part in the hearing, to comment on the nature and gravity of the contempt before deciding on a timetable for sentencing.
The court heard that a Part 71 order had been made in May 2018 requiring the defendants to provide information about their means and assets and any other relevant information.
Morris J found that the husband knew of the orders to make disclosure of full bank statements for the previous five years, but he decided deliberately not to provide those documents. This was despite his having 10 accounts in the Middle East with three different banks. Statements that he had no accounts were found to be false.
He also failed to provide documents concerning property he owned in Zimbabwe and did not disclose documents showing his ownership of two private companies.
The claimants submitted – and the judge found – that the husband had shown a casual approach to his duties to the court. He ignored the Part 71 orders and failed to attend at court on four occasions. Once both defendants did become involved in enforcement proceedings, their approach was to dispute as much as possible, regardless of the merits of the arguments.
In addition to the judgment sums, the claimants have since obtained further costs orders against the defendants, totalling around £864,000, although these have not yet been pursued.
Sir Geoffrey Cox QC and Ben Walker-Nolan, instructed by The Khan Partnership LLP, appeared for the claimants. The defendants were not present and were not represented.
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