Accountant hits back over damages claim with libel suit against Vincent Tchenguiz

Grant Thornton partners have filed a libel countersuit against the property mogul Vincent Tchenguiz

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The Independent Online

Two partners at Grant Thornton have filed a libel countersuit against the property mogul Vincent Tchenguiz, as the accountancy giant rejected allegations made in a £2.2bn damages claim brought by the high-profile entrepreneur and others.

In documents filed at the High Court in London, the accountancy firm said two of its partners were seeking damages for libel and an injunction restraining Mr Tchenguiz from publishing defamatory comments.

It relates to an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into the Icelandic bank Kaupthing, including loans of about £1.7bn made by Kaupthing to companies owned by trusts in which Mr Tchenguiz and his brother Robert were beneficiaries before the bank’s collapse in 2008.

The brothers were arrested in March 2011 as part of highly publicised criminal investigation into the collapse of the bank. But the investigation was a botched one and the High Court later accused the SFO of “sheer incompetence” over the handling of the case, after it ruled that the arrest warrants against the Tchenguiz brothers were obtained unlawfully.

Grant Thornton’s response comes after Vincent Tchenguiz said in November 2014 that he had filed a £2.2bn lawsuit against Grant Thornton, Kaupthing and three individuals in the High Court.

The accountant said it “has set out its defence to the claims brought by Vincent Tchenguiz, explaining how we acted appropriately and in accordance with legal requirements at all times”.

It added: “There is no basis for these serious allegations and the action ought never to have been brought.”

The accountancy group said it was engaged by the Icelandic bank to investigate transactions with third parties, including Robert Tchenguiz, and to recover amounts owed.

Vincent Tchenguiz said: “We are very confident in our legal position.”

In 2010 the SFO demanded that Grant Thornton provide all information in its possession in connection with the major debtors of Kaupthing and its work as receiver/liquidator to certain of those debtors.

Grant Thornton said yesterday: “The defence is accompanied by a counterclaim in defamation in respect of untrue and damaging statements made about two Grant Thornton partners when the claim was issued.”

The lawsuit cites a press release issued in November alongside the Tchenguiz action, which alleges the two partners conspired to instigate an SFO investigation into Mr Tchenguiz. The brothers have said the SFO investigation caused damage to their reputations and businesses.

The SFO settled the civil damages claims brought by Vincent Tchenguiz and his businesses last summer and apologised publicly.