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Permission granted for claim to set aside judgments as procured by fraud


A large cache of Farhad Azima’s hacked data was placed online in 2016. Soon after, RAKIA, the sovereign wealth fund of the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, sued Mr Azima in London for fraudulent misrepresentation and conspiracy. Mr Azima counterclaimed that RAKIA was itself responsible for the unlawful hacking and release of the data, and that the evidence thereby obtained should be excluded and/or that the proceedings were an abuse of process. Following a trial in London, RAKIA’s claims succeeded and Mr Azima’s counterclaim was dismissed (the “First Judgment”).

Mr Azima appealed. The Court of Appeal dismissed Mr Azima’s appeal against RAKIA’s claims but, based on new evidence in relation to RAKIA’s responsibility for the hacking, remitted the counterclaim to be re-tried. The Court of Appeal stated that, whatever the outcome of the remitted counterclaim, the First Judgment and factual findings on RAKIA’s claim “must stand”. The Supreme Court refused Mr Azima permission to appeal.

After remission of the counterclaim, Mr Azima added four additional defendants to the counterclaim, alleging that they were complicit in the unlawful hacking. Following settlement with one of those individuals, the remaining additional defendants to counterclaim are (1) Neil Gerrard, a retired solicitor; (2) Dechert LLP; and (3) James Buchanan.

On 22 June 2022, RAKIA wrote a letter to the Court, disclaiming any intention to participate further in the proceedings, but it remains a party and continues to be served through its former solicitors.

On 24 June 2022, Mr Azima issued an application for permission to amend his existing counterclaim to rely on a range of new evidence as to the hacking and its cover-up; and to introduce a further counterclaim against RAKIA to set aside the First Judgment, the Court of Appeal judgment, and their respective Orders, on the ground that they were procured by fraud.

The additional defendants opposed the introduction of the new counterclaim, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction, it was an abuse of process, and/or the new evidence was not material. Following a two-day hearing, Mr Justice Michael Green rejected those arguments and granted Mr Azima permission to introduce the counterclaim. In the course of his judgment, the Judge reviewed the law on setting aside a judgment by fraud, including observations on the proper procedural approach to such applications, the burden of proof, and the law on abuse of process.

The Judgment is here.

Thomas Plewman KC, Frederick Wilmot-Smith and Sophie Bird acted for Mr Azima in the application hearing, instructed by Burlingtons Legal LLP. Tim Lord KC and Hugo Leith also act for Mr Azima in the counterclaims.

Fionn Pilbrow KC acted for Mr Gerrard, instructed by Charles Fussell & Co LLP.

Roger Masefield KC and Laura Newton acted for Dechert LLP, instructed by Enyo Law LLP.