Charles Samek QC and James
McWilliams have been successful in resisting an application to overturn a default
judgment and worldwide freezing order.
Sheikh Saoud Bin
Abdullah M. Al-Thani v Ayad Najib Affat & Ors 
Charles Samek QC and James
McWilliams, acting for a member of the Qatari Royal Family, successfully
resisted an application by a defendant in a substantial fraud claim to set
aside orders made against him over the course of more than a year including a
worldwide freezing order, bench warrant and judgment in default. Charles Samek QC and James McWilliams were instructed by Mark Brassey of Child & Child (formally of Blake Morgan).
The Claimant, a member of the
ruling family of Qatar, fell victim to a fraud in 2011 whereby he was convinced
by the Defendant that it would be advantageous to him to transfer his valuable
property in London to a company incorporated in the BVI that would be owned and
controlled by him and his children. Unbeknownst to the Claimant, however, the
property was in fact transferred to a company with the same name in this
jurisdiction wholly owned and controlled by the Defendant. Having successfully
obtained title to the Claimant’s property, the Defendant without the Claimant’s
knowledge then obtained a substantial loan secured on the Claimant’s property
and disappeared with the proceeds. The Claimant only discovered what had happened
when, in 2014, the Defendant defaulted on the loan and the lender sought to
enforce its security against the Claimant’s property.
Over the course of 2014, the
Claimant sought and obtained a series of orders against the Defendant in the
Chancery Division including a worldwide freezing order, a proprietary
injunction, a passport and tipstaff order, and the issue of a bench warrant.
The Defendant’s only response to the proceedings was an email in February 2014
following service of the freezing order asserting that he was stuck in Iraq and
unable to comply. Absent a defence or acknowledgment of service from the
Defendant, the Claimant sought and obtained judgment in default in June 2014.
Nothing more was heard from the
Defendant until, in May 2015, he was arrested pursuant to the bench warrant at
Gatwick Airport returning from a trip to Spain. Shortly after his apprehension,
the Defendant made an application to set aside all of the orders that had been
made against him in the proceedings and, in particular, the judgment in
The application was made on the
basis that he had been unaware of the proceedings and that he had a real
prospect of successfully defending the claim. His defence was, essentially,
that all of the steps he had taken had been with the Claimant’s full knowledge
and consent. He relied on a series of conversations and meetings said to have
taken place with the Claimant and documents said to evidence a longstanding
business relationship with the Claimant.
Snowden J dismissed the Defendant’s
application, holding that:
The case is a useful reminder that
the Court will not always accede to an application to set aside default
judgment (or refuse to enter summary judgment) simply because the defendant
raises disputes of fact on a claim in fraud which, ordinarily, the Court would
wish to test by means of oral evidence at a trial.
The Court will look at the totality
of the material before it and, if what is said by the defendant cannot be
accepted, whether because of its inherent implausibility or its inconsistency
with the contemporaneous documents, then the Court can and will find that a
defendant has no real prospect of defending the claim.