Andrew Sutcliffe KC and Tom Rainsbury successfully resist application to discharge NCA’s £50m Freezing Order

On 8 March 2024, Poole J dismissed an application to discharge a property freezing order (PFO) in National Crime Agency v Feyziyev [2024] EWHC 501 (Admin) following a heavily contested 2 day hearing.

The PFO had been obtained by the National Crime Agency (NCA) at an ex parte hearing before Heather Williams J in respect of 22 properties in London, rental income from those properties, and a bank account in Liechtenstein. The properties were valued at £50million and included two flats in Chelsea Barracks. They were held by (or for the benefit of) a member of the National Assembly in Azerbaijan.

The NCA argued that there was a good arguable case that the properties had been obtained through unlawful conduct, including fraud, corruption, and money laundering in Azerbaijan, Estonia, Latvia and the UK. It was alleged that the money flows were traceable to companies involved in the Azerbaijani Laundromat, and other entities in the Marshall Islands, the Seychelles, the Dominican Republic, and St Kitts & Nevis.

The respondents applied to discharge the PFO on a wide-ranging basis, claiming that there was no good arguable case that the assets were or represented assets obtained through unlawful conduct and there was no risk of dissipation. The respondents also maintained that there had been 17 failures to comply with the duty to give full and frank disclosure and fair presentation.

Poole J dismissed the application on all grounds, holding that: the tracing evidence was compelling; there was a real risk of dissipation established by solid evidence; none of 17 complaints of non-disclosure was made out; and the respondents’ complaints about the presentation of the case had been couched in overblown terms.

In an earlier ruling, Poole J also dismissed an application by the respondents for derogations from open justice, including for the hearing to be in private.

Andrew Sutcliffe KC and Tom Rainsbury represented the NCA and were instructed by Michael Ward and Laura Beament of Burges Salmon LLP.

A copy of the judgment is available here.

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