Judge acts to enforce deal between squabbling law firm owners

Mr Justice Michael Green: Defendant has shown unwillingness to co-operate

The High Court has made cross-examination and disclosure orders to enforce a consent order made in the wake of a nine-year dispute between solicitors over the winding down of their law firm.

Mr Justice Michael Green said Prakash Dhanji Patel had “essentially prevaricated” over whether to comply with the consent order, which was “highly surprising” given that he was a practising solicitor and litigation specialist.

The judge said there was a “falling out” between Mr Patel and Paresh Kantilal Chohan after a receiver manager was appointed by the High Court back in late 2014 for their partnership, which was not named.

The winding-down process took “a long time”, but this June, in the run-up to a trial of the accounting process instigated by the court, a settlement and consent order were agreed.

Under this, Mr Patel was to pay Mr Chohan £575,000 by 21 July 2023; it was understood that Mr Patel had sufficient money in his pension fund to cover the cost.

However, on 20 July, Mr Patel asked for a further eight weeks. Mr Chohan responded by applying for a freezing order, granted by the High Court on 25 July, specifically in relation to the pension fund and any money drawn down from it, up to £1.2m.

Mr Patel provided information in an affidavit that he had made two drawings from his pension fund, one of £150,000 and the other of £100,000.

The judge said the affidavit did not disclose the defendant’s assets, as required, or explain why not. There was also no documentary support for the statements in it either.

“The claimant engaged in a certain amount of correspondence, pointing out the deficiencies in the affidavit and asking for them to be remedied, but nothing has happened.

“The defendant has essentially prevaricated and has provided no further information which is highly surprising given that the defendant is a practising solicitor and in, as I understand it, litigation so one would expect him to know the requirements to comply with court orders and the possible consequences.”

Mr Chohan applied for the order for cross-examination at the end of August, which the defendant did not “actively oppose” but said was too widely drawn.

Michael Green J said it emerged at the hearing last month that over £500,000 had now been paid from the pension fund to Mr Chohan.

Granting the cross-examination order, the judge said it was “necessary in order to police the freezing order” and obtain effective enforcement of the consent order.

“It is clear that the defendant has demonstrated an unwillingness to cooperate and he is quite clearly in breach of the order in not providing any details of his assets and not providing any documentary evidence to support what he has said in his affidavit.”

The other option was to apply for Mr Chohan to apply for Mr Patel’s committal, but the cross-examination order was “a more proportionate course to take”.

Michael Green J directed that the disclosure order cover all documents in the defendant’s possession evidencing drawings and assets held by him, including his bank statements.

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