Luxury Mayfair and Kensington properties to be sold in £250m fraud battle, High Court rules

·3-min read
The family’s appeal was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in London (Ian West/PA) (PA Archive)
The family’s appeal was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in London (Ian West/PA) (PA Archive)

A portfolio of luxury London properties can be sold off and £72 million seized from a Swiss bank account in the pursuit of £300 million stolen by the former head of an international paper company, the High Court has ruled.

The Kazakstan-based KK Group has spent years chasing its former chief executive, Maksat Arip, after he was found to have siphoned off huge sums of money with the help of chief financial officer Shynar Dikhanbayeva.

The High Court ruled in 2017 that Arip was behind a series of frauds on the company, and £250 million ($300m) in damages was owed as well as £8 million in legal costs.

Since the judgment, Mr Arip has refused to pay any of the money to the KK Group, frustrated efforts to seize assets, and made an aborted bid for bankruptcy.

On Tuesday, Mr Justice Henshaw agreed that a portfolio of properties around London could be sold off to settle the debt, and a £72 million cash pot in a Swiss bank account could also be seized.

The properties are a high-end townhouse in Wycombe Square, Kensington which is worth more than £13 million, a £26.5 million apartment in Montrose Place, Belgravia and four luxury apartments in Burlington Place, Mayfair worth £20m, as well as an £11 million commercial development in Ilford.

The judge found the properties had all been purchased with money that could be tied to the fraud on the KK Group, despite opposition from Mr Arip and members of his family.

The KK Group, one of Central Asia’s largest paper and packaging manufacturers, was once listed on the London Stock Exchange, but was withdrawn in the wake of Mr Arip’s plundering of the finances through a series of land acquisition and constructions deals.

Mr Arip has already been found guilty of contempt of court in his absence and sentenced to two years in prison for failing to hand over a collection of valuable wrist watches.

The court heard the defendants have gone to extensive lengths to avoid settling the debt, and ignored court orders in the latest legal battle to hide relevant evidence.

The property in Wycombe Square was the Arip family home between 2009 and 2018, while the other properties are owned by business entities linked to the family.

The legal battle was led by Harbour Litigation Funding, whose lawyers will now take possession of the properties and Swiss bank account while continuing to pursue Mr Arip for the rest of the outstanding debt.

“This is a momentous milestone in successfully enforcing a very valuable judgment”, said Mark King, Senior Director of Litigation Funding at Harbour.

“The judgment is testimony to the firepower provided by Harbour in funding and conducting the enforcement which has thwarted a sophisticated fraudster and his associates’ hard fought attempts to disregard the High Court’s orders for them to pay damages of US $300m. Without Harbour’s efforts, there would have been no enforcement proceedings and Mr Arip would have escaped with his ill-gotten gains.”

Richard Lewis, partner at Hogan Lovells, the Claimants’ solicitors, added: “The is a hugely important decision for the Claimants and a notable one for fraud claimants in England more generally.

“By finding in favour of the Claimants on all issues in the case, the English court has shown that it will not permit fraudsters to shield themselves from enforcement by parking their assets in supposed trust structures or with family.”

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