To his diamond trader client, Andrew Benson seemed to be doing everything he should. The solicitor with a leading City law firm had secured a top barrister, legal letters were flying to and fro, and the learned judges of the High Court were giving his £6m dispute due scrutiny.
For three years between 2010 and late 2013, the flow of densely-argued lawyerly material from Mr Benson continued unabated: a detailed judgment from the Court of Appeal, correspondence with a former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and even a couple of conference calls with a senior colleague and a QC.
The problem for the client - an Indian-born businessman named Rajesh Kishor Mehta - was that, it is now alleged, virtually every document and call emanating from Mr Benson related to his lawsuit was entirely fake and the fruit of a “breathtaking” deception.
This extraordinary claim has been revealed in an (entirely genuine) judgment handed down at London’s Royal Courts of Justice after Mr Mehta, who had faced arrest for contempt of court, complained that his apparent three-year absence from proceedings in the dispute between an Islamic investment company and diamond brokers was not his fault.
Mr Benson, 45, who has 18 years’ experience as a lawyer, is now under investigation by the Metropolitan Police and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) after being dismissed by his employer, Byrne & Partners, according to the ruling by Judge Nicholas Hamblen.
After detailing the dozens of emails, letters and documents sent by the solicitor to his client, including a full transcript of a High Court hearing which, it is apparent, never happened, Judge Hamblen concluded: “By definition, this case is out of the ordinary. Indeed, it is at the extreme limits of what is out of the ordinary.”
The saga is said to have begun in the autumn of 2010 when Mr Benson, who had already been acting on Mr Mehta’s behalf in connection with the long-running dispute over a $10m (£6.4m) loan, informed his client he had secured the services of Lord Kenneth MacDonald QC, the former DPP, to fight his case to have the contempt of court order against him overturned.
In reality neither Lord MacDonald, nor two other eminent silks supposedly engaged over the next two years, were ever contacted by Mr Benson nor agreed to take on the case.
Profiting from the fact that Mr Mehta was forced to remain abroad, Mr Benson proceeded to concoct a stream of correspondence with law firms and judges’ clerks as well as court documents including a fictitious Court of Appeal ruling described as “plausibly reasoned”, Judge Hamblen said.
Comparing the solicitor’s work to a well-known book of satirical law reports published in the 1930s, the judge said the case involved “the false document literary technique – the creation of a sense of authenticity through the invention of documents which appear to be factual”.
The claimed fraud is at one point believed to have stretched to phone calls between Mr Mehta, who was based in Belgium, and Mr Benson, involving an unknown accomplice pretending to be a senior partner in his law firm, and then a leading QC. There is no suggestion anyone else at Byrne & Partners was involved with the case.
It was only when Mr Mehta became suspicious about the made-up transcript and checks were made with the clerk to the judge named in the ruling in December 2013 that the saga came to light.
Judge Hamblen wrote: “The deception practised by Mr Benson over a period of more than three years... is rightly described as breathtaking.
“Until the police and the SRA have concluded their investigations much remains unclear, including his motives. What is clear, however, is that his actions will have had a significant effect on [Mr Mehta] (and his family) who has been strung along for more than three years.”
The SRA said it was aware of Mr Benson’s case. In a statement, Byrne & Partners said: “We can confirm that Andrew Benson left the firm immediately this matter came to light and we have cooperated fully with the SRA and the Metropolitan Police.”
Mr Benson could not be reached to comment.Reuse content