April 22, 2024

Serious Farce Office messes up again, with £6m of your money to Vincent

By Brian Rix

BrianRixNearly three and a half years after the Tchenguiz brothers were arrested on March 9 2011, this farcical case at last comes to an end.

Vincent gets a groveling apology plus a £3 million bung from the Serious Farce Office, which also has to pay an initial £3 million for Vincent’s legal costs with more to be negotiated.

Throughout the case, some of you will have followed the sheer ineptitude of the SFO with wonder.

Accountants Grant Thornton, acting as receiver for the Icelandic Kaupthing bank, had taken control of some of assets which fell under the control of the Tchenguiz Family. It provided information to the SFO, which then believed a fraud had been committed.

What has never been explained is that somehow while working with the SFO, Grant Thornton felt it appropriate to reach a deal with Vincent to sell him back some of the freehold assets they were holding.

It is quite possible – even likely – that some of these were the assets that had been claimed to be part of the alleged fraud.

Eventually the SFO case collapsed and the SFO accepted it was inept. The new head, David Green, made the decision to close the case.

Vincent Tchenguiz: got one per cent of his £300 million comp claim

Vincent Tchenguiz: got one per cent of his £300 million comp claim

The brothers applied for judicial review and successfully demonstrated that they had been arrested on incorrect evidence.

Over three days in May 2012, the legal peacocks Lords Goldsmith (former Blairite Attorney General), acting for Vincent, and McDonald (former Director of Public Prosecutions), acting for Robert, preened themselves in court.

They were assisted by legal birds of less colourful plumage: assorted crows and magpies.

The SFO arrived with a modest legal team assembled at the last minute.

The peacocks made their dance and took the judges to the “Pennyrock” loan to show there was no fraud.

So clean was that particular loan that there were no less than six places in the document that demonstrated that nothing untoward was lurking.

At times, even the judges struggled under the volume of documentation. The Serious Farce Office barristers looked flustered, dashing  from bundle A to F to J under Lord Goldsmith’s onslaught.

At one point, the City of London Police with an even smaller legal bird cheeped, in effect: “My Lords, my client was only acting as the plod told to follow orders from the SFO and arrest these two gentlemen of fine character.”

Meanwhile, sitting in the stalls some of the SFO staff found it difficult to follow the trial as they spent too much time visiting the toilet hoping not to be called to account for not knowing their credits from their debits, or their elbow from other parts of their anatomy.

SFOwebsiteSome press were there, well briefed journalists from the Financial Times somehow seemed to be able to interpret the Tchenguiz bothers’ every thought. Quite why the FT journalists have been such assiduous reporters of the Tchenguiz’s travails at the hands of the authorities is unknown.

Other strange people sat in the court, some looking like ex-plod noting who was there on behalf of the SFO. As well as his QCs, Vincent deployed other technical experts to make sure they understood the numbers – and, of course, his long standing and now departed PR fixer.

The SFO was shown to have acted wrongly and Vincent was awarded cost of £3 million.

Then the Tchenguiz brothers went to town in seeking £300 million compo from taxpayers for their trauma and distress.

That’s ten times the SFO budget.

So the SFO then found some more money from the Treasury to prepare for this hearing. They did not quite tell the truth when things came before parliament they said it was for various projects … oh, and the Tchenguiz case.

The case was to have taken place in October, but the SFO decided to sell out, at least to Vincent.

Vincent has settled for £3 million – or one per cent of what the bothers were claiming off taxpayers.

The SFO – to date – is defending the action from Robert. It is an open question whether the SFO will settle with him, too.

Those responsible for the SFO debacle have gone, having awarded themselves pay-offs that were so large Parliament got upset. Of course, we did not get any money back.

One is now teaching the rest of the world how to stop fraud.

What next for the SFO?

It is going to stick to nice, easy cases – like minor City transgressors who have upset their employers.

As for serious fraud, forget it.


All those who have comments for the Competition and Markets Authority inquiry into leasehold management should send them in by September 19 2014 to:

Residential Property Management Services Study Competition and Markets Authority
Victoria House
37 Southampton Row


The CMA will publish its full report by the end of 2014.



  1. Trevor Bradley says

    What a wonderful story!. The author must have an extremely imaginative mind. Of course, nothing like this would ever really really happen in the uk would it – thank goodness!!!!! £6 million cost to the tax payer. Those responsible paying themseves off, come come.
    Not seen anything about this “story” in the general press or TV news broadcasts. Should the general public/taxpayer not be easily made aware of this. Another just unbelievable sham and con

  2. A Reviewer says


    I am just re-reading one of Lord Denning’s very readable books called “The Discipline of Law”.

    And for anyone interested in the principles of natural justice and how they come to be defined, it is an excellent, often entertaining, read. He also comments on the plethora of organizations who can make and break rules …

    Whether we like it or not, IF the case against the Tchenguiz brothers was founded on evidence that was found to be inadequate and IF they suffered damages, then they are due compensation. We may not like it as we “know” [viz suspect] that in general the brothers are “up to no good” which is how it might be described by the common man [thats us].

    So who has got the EVIDENCE – that is information when subjected to scrutiny in a criminal court will stand up and be accepted.

    IF it does not exist, then there is nothing to be done except for Parliament to pass laws prohibiting the activity and behavior that we all find so unacceptable.

    In Europe and the US there is just too much money floating around which could be put to better purpose: the Indians have just used some of theirs to build the world’s largest breakwater plus harbor plus docks plus shipyards complex; in stead of rebuilding ours we have turned them into pleasure gardens.

    The Tchenguiz brothers deal in money, and said money must be put to use. Your VOTE, your parliament.

    Happy thoughts.

    PS I remember when Jeffrey Archer won his case … then some years later someone DID turn up the EVIDENCE and it did stand up.

  3. Trevor Bradley says

    Yes, Reviewer is right. “Whether we like it or not, IF the case against the Tchenguiz brothers was founded on evidence that was found to be inadequate and IF they suffered damages, then they are due compensation”
    It is those in the SFO responsible for the shambles etc that should be exposed, and as for those that awarded themselves payments and went, they should be made to pay every penny back and forfeit their luxury pensions. It is time that a lot of people in power relised it is not “their money” to take or play with. It is taxpayers/public money