Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz, the U.K. property investors arrested yesterday as part of a probe into the collapse of Iceland’s Kaupthing Bank hf, skipped a party tonight on Vincent’s yacht, moored in Cannes, France.
The pair, who haven’t been charged with a crime and were released yesterday, are allowed to leave the U.K., said Sam Jaffa, a Serious Fraud Office spokesman. The agency was told they were planning to attend the event, he said. The brothers weren’t on the boat, Veni Vidi Vici, where a party is being held as part of the Mipim property expo, and won’t be in attendance tonight because they have business to attend to in London, said Sean Bellew, Vincent Tchenguiz’s spokesman.
The SFO and police in Britain and Iceland searched homes and businesses in London and Reykjavik yesterday, arresting nine men, including the brothers. Robert Tchenguiz, 50, and Vincent Tchenguiz, 54, said in a statement that they “are cooperating fully with the investigation and are confident that, once concluded, we will be cleared.”
Prosecutors are looking at Kaupthing’s “decision-making processes, which appear to have allowed substantial value to be extracted from the bank in the weeks and days prior to its collapse,” the agency said in December 2009 when it opened its investigation into possible fraud. Kaupthing collapsed in 2008, the last of Iceland’s three biggest banks to fail.
In 2008, lending to Robert Tchenguiz and “related parties” corresponded to more than 25 percent of Kaupthing’s equity, according to an Icelandic parliament-appointed Special Investigative Commission. Tchenguiz, Kaupthing’s biggest retail borrower, was also a board member in Exista hf, one of the former owners of the bank.
The Tchenguizes have lost money because of Kaupthing’s collapse, Sarosh Zaiwalla, a former lawyer for the brothers, said yesterday on Bloomberg Television’s “Last Word” with Andrea Catherwood.
“They also have their side of the story, and that is that they could’ve gone elsewhere, that if they were aware that Kaupthing was going to go bankrupt or had economic problems with its own finances they would’ve gone to any other bank, and therefore they have a claim for damages,” Zaiwalla said.
The SFO is looking at “whether the loans were proper,” Zaiwalla said.
Rotch Property Group
The Iranian brothers are co-chairmen of Rotch Property Group Ltd., which owns and manages properties with a value of more than 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion), according to the company’s website. The company, based in London’s Mayfair neighborhood, was restructured in 2001, with Robert establishing R20 Ltd. and Vincent setting up Consensus Business Group.
The pair were worth a combined 850 million pounds in 2007, according to the Sunday Times Rich List of the most-wealthy people in England. Robert Tchenguiz has owned stakes in companies including pub owner Mitchells & Butlers Plc and supermarket chain J Sainsbury Plc. They also had considered taking over department-store operator Selfridges Plc in 2003.