Diamond Dealer Duped as Lawyer Faked Rulings, TranscriptsJeremy Hodges
A lawyer spent three years working on a diamond dealer’s lawsuit with hearings in London courts, rulings, meetings and judge’s transcripts.
There was just one hitch: it was almost all fake. The deception, which a London judge said was so extraordinary it belonged in a satirical book, emerged in a court ruling today in a real lawsuit between the dealer and an Islamic investment company.
Andrew Benson, who was a lawyer at Byrne and Partners LLP, represented the dealer in the suit for more than three years during which he created fictitious hearings at London’s High Court and Court of Appeal, legal documents, judgments, transcripts and bogus telephone meetings, according to today’s ruling.
“By definition this case is out of the ordinary,” Judge Nicholas Hamblen said in the ruling. “Indeed, it is at the extreme limits of what is out of the ordinary.”
The real case, which dates back to 2000 and involves an Islamic investment company and diamond traders, relates to a finance agreement. In 2002, a London judge ruled Islamic Investment Company of the Gulf (Bahamas) Ltd. should be paid $10 million after a default on the agreement.
“As with A.P. Herbert’s ‘Uncommon Law,’ this case involves the false-document literary technique,” Judge Hamblen said in the ruling referring to an anthology of fictitious law reports first published in 1935. “The creation of a sense of authenticity through the invention of documents which appear to be factual.”
Benson has been dismissed from Byrne & Partners and is subject to investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and London’s Metropolitan Police Service, according to the ruling.
“We can confirm that Andrew Benson left the firm immediately this matter came to light and we have cooperated fully with the SRA and the Metropolitan Police,” a spokesman said on behalf of Byrne and Partners.
The SRA didn’t comment beyond confirming the probe. Benson is no longer on the law firm’s website and didn’t immediately answer a call to his phone.
Benson’s deception was revealed in December 2013, when questions were raised about one of the transcripts of a hearing and a real court clerk was contacted, Judge Hamblen said in the ruling.
Rajesh Mehta, the diamond trader who was Benson’s client, argues that it is clear Benson wasn’t acting in his interests for three years and that his “fraudulent” conduct led to the court issuing contempt orders against him.
Rohit Sanghvi, the lawyer now representing Mehta, declined to comment until he had spoken to his client. Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, which represented the Islamic Investment Company, didn’t immediately comment on today’s ruling.