Mother of all cases on Gulf payments

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ONE of the biggest court cases the UK has ever seen started in London last week over payments made by the Gulf state of Kuwait before and after the invasion by Iraq in 1990.

Grupo Torras, the Spanish subsidiary of the Kuwait Investment Office (KIO), went into receivership six years ago with debts of $2bn. It is now suing its former management for the return of $600m (pounds 350m) which it alleges was fraudulently removed from the company.

Allegations that some of the money went to individuals and countries in return for support in the Gulf War are likely to feature in the trial. Most of the funds remain untraced to date.

Among the 68 defendants are Sheikh Fahad Mohammed Al Sabah, the former chairman of the KIO, and Sheikh Khalde Naser Hamoud Al Sabah, a former deputy general manager. Grupo Torras invested heavily in Spain in the late 1980s. It now has new management and has emerged from receivership.

The sheer scale of the court case is breathtaking. There are 10 separate legal teams and the trial evidence consists of 115 lever-arch files. The authorities have had to set up a special court in court number 80 (commonly referred to as the Super Court) in the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand. Sheikh Fahad has applied to give evidence via an Internet and video link from the Bahamas.

ROBERT KERSHAW, a Cheshire-based entrepreneur who has registered many company names resembling famous people and companies, including Jaap Stam Limited (the Manchester United defender), Virgin IT Limited, Michael Owen 18 Limited and Beckham Spice Limited, has suffered a setback.

Daewoo, the South Korean car maker, last week won a ruling from the Department of Trade and Industry forcing Mr Kershaw to change the registered company name "Daewoo Limited". This is just one of many legal actions launched against Kershaw Rose, the firm Mr Kershaw runs with his partner, Jennifer Rose.

In a separate action, Manchester United Football Club and Jaap Stam, their pounds 10m signing, are suing Mr Kershaw through solicitors James Chapman & Co over 29 trademarks Mr Kershaw has registered which include Mr Stam's name in some form.

Several other companies and individuals, including Virgin Group, have been unsuccessful in their applications to Companies House to force Mr Kershaw to change disputed names. Mr Kershaw said when asked about these actions a fortnight ago that the protesters could "do nothing" about it.

Kevin Dean, partner with Sinclair Roche & Temperley, the solicitors for Daewoo, were told on 28 September that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry had issued a direction under the Companies Act 1985 requiring Daewoo Limited to change its name as it was "too alike" Daewoo UK Limited.

Sinclair Roche is now helping Virgin's and Manchester United's lawyers in applications to Companies House. Mr Dean said: "To the suggestion that Sinclair Roche & Temperley and Daewoo could `do nothing', a fitting response may be: `That'll be the Daewoo'."

THE RECEIVER of the Royal Masonic Hospital in London, appointed four years ago after the charity suffered heavy losses, is suing 42 individual members of the board of management of the hospital for a total of more than pounds 6.5m alleging that they acted outside the original aims of the charity.

Adrian Stanway, of PricewaterhouseCoopers, is also suing Her Majesty's Attorney General, whose duty it is to protect charities.

The receiver is suing over six separate matters. First, he claims that from 1990 the hospital began to take in more patients who were not "Masonic patients", so it "ceased to be in the furtherance of the main object of the charity".

When the hospital went into receivership on 27 January 1994 its losses due to non-Masonic users totalled pounds 5,333,678 Mr Stanway alleges. He is also claiming pounds 1,111,541 lost over the acquisition in 1992 of a nursing home company called Humanitas. Board members also face a claim of pounds 152,000 over losses incurred during a Diamond Jubilee celebration for the founding of the hospital.

Mr Stanway also alleges that the board members were responsible for losing money on an investment in a company called Ravenscourt Laboratories. This brings the total claim against them to pounds 6,649,875.