Major accountancy firm writes 'extraordinary' letter to High Court judge presiding over high-profile divorce case

Lawyers at Grant Thornton criticised Mr Justice Moor's decision to award property tycoon Scot Young's ex-wife £26 million

Investigations Reporter

One of Britain’s most bitter and high-profile divorces has taken a surprise twist after it emerged that a major accountancy firm wrote an “extraordinary” private letter to the High Court judge presiding over the family case and criticised his findings.

Grant Thornton, who act as trustees-in-bankruptcy for Scot Young, a property and telecoms tycoon who hid tens of millions of pounds offshore but claims he is penniless and unable to provide for his family, wrote the controversial letter to Mr Justice Moor, who awarded the businessman’s ex-wife £26 million last year.

Last week, during a costs application in the bankruptcy division of the High Court, it emerged lawyers for the accountancy firm, who were appointed four years ago to try and recover Mr Young’s secreted wealth, wrote privately to criticise the judge in the divorce hearing.

One of the points that Boyes Turner complained about was the finding by Mr Justice Moor that most of Mr Young’s creditors did not exist.

The lawyers for Grant Thornton complained the ruling may allow Mrs Young to control her ex-husband’s bankruptcy which would “not be in the interests of all the creditors”.

Lexa Hilliard QC, acting for Mrs Young – who has yet to be paid by her ex-husband following the conclusion of the divorce case – said: “I have to say the trustees wrote a quite extraordinary letter to Mr Moor criticising his judgment. I have never seen anything like it. They didn’t even apply to intervene during the family proceedings. This is a very strange case.”

The private letter from Grant Thornton’s lawyers to Mr Justice Moor invited him to “either review, rescind or vary certain aspects of your judgment”.

“We take the view that you have been permitted to reach conclusions and make orders in circumstances where, at the very least, you should have been alerted to the reasons why you ought not to have so concluded and ordered,” it read.

On his ruling that the creditors were fictitious, lawyers for Grant Thornton said: “With the greatest of respect this is a conclusion that it was not open to you to reach.”

They said the effect of his judgment would mean “Mrs Young’s share of recoveries will be enhanced at the expense of her former husband’s other unsecured creditors.”

It concluded: “That is simply improper and wholly unjustifiable.”

Legal experts said the private letter was “almost unprecedented”. A source told The Independent on Sunday that Mr Justice Moor sent back a robust response, informing Grant Thornton that many of their points were “simply wrong”, and that the appropriate course for them to take would have been to make an application to the court.

The letter emerged during a brief hearing where Grant Thornton were applying to dismiss an annulment application made by Ms Young in 2012. Her lawyers argued they needed more time to respond and the bankruptcy judge agreed to adjourn the matter for another week.

Ms Hilliard QC said: “The court should have sympathy. We are talking about a woman who has had to fight tooth and nail to get a judgment order in the High Court.”

The court also heard that Grant Thornton has still not granted Mrs Young a creditors’ meeting, granting her an official status in her ex-husband’s bankruptcy.

John Briggs, acting for Grant Thornton, said: “This is one of those rare cases when it would not be in the interests of all the creditors to have a creditors meeting, which would allow Mrs Young to control the bankruptcy.”

Mr Young, a successful property and telecoms tycoon, claims he lost a vast fortune in 2006 just as he separated from his ex-wife.

Since the split, he has led a luxurious lifestyle and claimed he is unable to provide for Mrs Young and their two daughters, Scarlett and Sasha.

However following a hugely-acrimonious, seven-year battle, which heard testimony from some of Mr Young’s high-profile business friends including billionaire Topshop owner Sir Philip Green, and restaurateur Richard Caring, Mr Justice Moor ruled that Mr Young was not a “penniless man of straw with huge debts” and that “wads of cash”handed to the tycoon by his friends “came from his own hidden resources, in part held for him by third parties”.

During the divorce hearing last year, Mr Young was cross-examined over why several creditors to whom he claims to owe millions of pounds were still funding his lavish lifestyle.

Mr Justice Moor heard how companies and entities owned by Jonathan Brown, a smoked salmon businessman who Mr Young claims he owes £3.3 million, had recently sent money to the 51-year-old through third parties.

Stephen Kay, another creditor to “Project Moscow” – an alleged disastrous Russian property deal that Mr Young has previously cited as a cause in his financial demise – had also provided him with support.

At the time, Mr Young said he had “begged” his friends to help the family after he had lost all his money. He added: “Mr Brown was initially very unhappy with me…but now we are close friends.”

Mr Justice Moor later concluded that all the debts to investors in Project Moscow have been paid off, including more than £4 million to the daughter of deceased Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, a close friend of Mr Young, and $6.2 million allegedly owed to a trust belonging to Poju Zabludowicz, a billionaire donor to David Cameron's Tory leadership campaign.

Mr Justice Moor found Mr Young’s only “true debts” were £5 million owed to the Bank of Scotland (HBOS) and HMRC.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Team Leader

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Engineer - Linux, Windows, Cloud - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + 10% bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engin...

Recruitment Genius: Quality Inspector

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Buddy & Team Leader / Buddy

£11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To join a team working with a female in her ...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence