A British lawyer who misled a High Court judge by allowing him to think a wealthy businessman was implicated in a terrorist attack is now facing disciplinary action himself.
The lawyer, solicitor Peter Gray, was found to have deliberately withheld vital evidence that Abdourahman Boreh could not have been involved in the terror attack in a bid to convince the judge to freeze £65m of the multi-millionaire’s assets.
The businessman, who has a house in London’s prestigious Eaton Square, was involved in a tax dispute with the government of Djibouti, where he was born. The dispute escalated and he was accused of corruption and forced to leave the country following threats to himself and his family. He was later accused, and convicted in his absence, of ordering a terrorist grenade attack on a supermarket in Djibouti city in 2009.
Mr Boreh, who denies all the allegations, says the charges are politically motivated because he is seen as a rival to President Guelleh.
The Djibouti authorities hired Mr Gray’s US law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and corporate investigation firm Kroll, to pursue Mr Boreh. Mr Gray sought to extradite him from Dubai and persuaded the High Court in London to freeze millions of pounds of assets.
Evidence supporting the High Court case included a transcript of an intercepted phone conversation between Mr Boreh and two men in Djibouti purporting to discuss the grenade attack the previous day. The court was told the two men were arrested by Djiboutian security officials and “confessed” to the attack. One was convicted and jailed while the other died in police custody.
Mr Boreh said the conversation was really about leafletting and his London lawyers challenged the evidence. The High Court heard Mr Gray soon discovered the phone conversation could not have referred to the attack as it had been recorded before the event took place.
Despite knowing this crucial evidence undermined the terror charges, Mr Gray failed to inform the court. Instead, during a meeting at Kroll’s offices with Djibouti’s senior law officer, Mr Gray asked for fresh evidence of any terror attack which could be linked to the phone conversation. When it was found the fresh evidence which was produced were photos taken a month after the phone call, the evidence was quietly dropped.
Rather than admit the unreliability of the evidence, a minuted meeting recorded Mr Gray saying he would “fudge the error of the date”.
He then used the High Court’s freezing order to support moves to get Mr Boreh arrested and hinder his businesses.
When the false evidence finally emerged after pressure from Mr Boreh’s UK lawyers, Byrne and Partners, Cambridge-educated Mr Gray, 39, who was called to the Bar in 1999, denied deliberately misleading the court, but claimed he was guilty of “group think”.
However, Mr Justice Flaux, the High Court judge handling the case, concluded he “engaged in a strategy of equivocation and evasion which was not one that any reputable and honest solicitor could ever have adopted”.
The judge also criticised the Kroll corporate investigators after it emerged the firm attempted to force Mr Boreh to settle matters out of court to avoid jail. Failure to settle would result in Mr Boreh spending the rest of his life “looking over his shoulder”, Kroll’s London-based boss Tom Everett-Heath warned.
The judge concluded that there was “unambiguous impropriety, given the nature of the threats”. He ordered the Republic of Djibouti and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to jointly pay Mr Boreh £880,000. The US firm has suspended Mr Gray and removed his details from their website. He has also been reported to the legal watchdog, Solicitors Regulation Authority.Reuse content