High Court holds clients in contempt for failing to pay solicitors £2.3m

Oman: Client said he was not afraid of English judgment

Two clients who owe their solicitors £2.3m in outstanding fees, costs and interest have been found guilty of 14 charges of contempt of court.

Mr Justice Morris found that the clients had breached a court order, made false statements in oral evidence and made false statements verified by statement of truth.

The judge said he would consider sentencing “in due course”.

Hassan Khan & Co and the Khan Partnership, two inter-related firms of solicitors, sued Omani husband and wife Thamer Al-Shanfari and Iman Said Al-Rawas for unpaid fees after acting for them between 2006 and 2009 in “substantial litigation”.

Some of it related to Mr Al-Shanfari being placed on the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctions list, due to his involvement with the Zimbabwean regime.

In the original litigation, judges made adverse findings about his conduct, including serious and deliberate material non-disclosure and giving misleading evidence.

In 2018, after suing over unpaid bills, the law firms received judgment in default of £1.16m.

Contacted after the hearing, Mr Al-Shanfari reportedly said he was not afraid of the judgment as it would have to be enforced in Oman and the solicitors would “see what happens” if they tried this.

In addition to the judgment sums, the solicitors have since obtained £864,000 in costs orders and in total, including interest, are owed in excess of £2.3m.

In seeking to enforce the judgment sums and the costs orders, the law firms obtained orders in 2018 under rule 71 requiring each of the defendants to attend and provide information about their means.

They failed to do so four times in the following months and were twice found guilty of contempt, with suspended committal orders imposed.

Eventually a part 71 hearing took place in December 2018, which the defendants attended, produced some documentation and gave oral evidence.

In bringing the contempt application, the law firms alleged that the defendants “deliberately and dishonestly” concealed and obfuscated their assets and interests during the part 71 process and thereafter, in an effort to avoid and frustrate payment of the judgment sums.

The hearing took place in the absence of the defendants, who had been given the opportunity to apply to adjourn it. Their Omani lawyer subsequently wrote to request that Morris J dismiss the case.

He refused to do so, saying: “I accept the claimants’ contention that the belated post-hearing written submission was part of the same long-standing pattern of manipulative conduct through which the defendants have been seeking to frustrate disrupt and delay the processes of this court.

“Indeed. the very act of making this submission after the hearing, rather than taking up the court’s express invitation to apply to adjourn before or at the hearing itself, confirms that this is the case.

“There is no evidence of any new and genuine intention to engage with the process of the court.”

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