The multimillionaire businessman Vivian Imerman won a court order yesterday preventing his estranged wife's brothers – property tycoons Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz – from using confidential information about his financial assets.
Mr Imerman, who married Elizabeth Tchenguiz in 2001, shared office space and computer facilities with the brothers from March 2002 until this February, when he and his staff were evicted from the premises of Robert Tchenguiz.
Mr Imerman claimed that the brothers, two IT staff and a solicitor had no right to retain or use material surreptitiously taken from the computer system early this year.
Mr Justice Eady, at the High Court in London, said the amount of material accessed was vast – with a debate between the two sides whether it equated to 250,000 pages or 2.5 million pages.
Robert Tchenguiz's case was that he took the material because he anticipated that Mr Imerman would seek to hide his assets from his wife, who petitioned for divorce in December 2008, and he was concerned to protect his sister's interests.
He claimed that he had always been permitted unrestricted access to Mr Imerman's files.
Mr Imerman's counsel argued that he had no right to access the material, which extended beyond anything that could possibly be relevant for the matrimonial proceedings.
The judge said that the contents of some of the documents were obviously confidential, and there was a powerful case for saying that any information stored on a computer to which access was password-protected might be regarded as confidential, irrespective of its content.
Granting orders, by way of summary judgment, for the material to be returned and not disclosed to any third party, he added that it was difficult to understand why Mr Imerman should not simply be entitled to have the information back, or rather to take it out of circulation and restrain its use or onward transmission by others.
That was irrespective of how it was originally obtained and by whom.
Mrs Imerman would not be compromised by the grant of the orders sought, since she already had available the files supplied to her solicitors and, if there was evidence to justify it, preservation orders could be made at her behest in relation to other categories of documents said to be relevant.
"At all events, those considerations do not justify the continued retention of the material by any of the defendants."Reuse content