Earlier this month, The Sunday Times reported on a whistleblower case in which two British private investigators were being sued by the owners of FBME Bank in Cyprus. Steven Kay QC and Gillian Higgins of the Chambers of 9 Bedford Row were assisting the investigators, Nigel Brown and Alec Leighton, who were litigants in person.
FBME bank stands accused of facilitating terrorist financing, organised crime, internet child pornography and the Syrian government’s chemical weapons programme.
The two former British police officers were hired by Ayoub-Farid Michel Saab and Fadi Michel Saab, the Lebanese owners of FBME, to address serious allegations of money-laundering and regulatory breaches detailed by the American regulator FinCEN.
The Sunday Times reported that:
The High Court heard that the men discovered evidence suggesting serious criminal activity during their internal investigation and revealed their findings to the US and Cypriot authorities after the bank’s owners failed to pay them £200,000 in outstanding bills.
Ayoub-Farid Michel Saab and Fadi Michel Saab, the brothers who owned FBME, are suing them for breach of confidentiality. Mr Brown and Mr Leighton say that their disclosures were justified in the public interest because of the seriousness of the allegations.
Steven Kay, QC, representing Mr Brown and Mr Leighton, said that they had been “compelled” to disclose their evidence after going to a lawyer for advice about their unpaid bills. “They were advised by the lawyer that he had to report to the authorities in Cyprus [what they had told him],” he said.
Mr Kay added: “[The claimants] would rather this court was tied up in contract law, but this case is about something else. It’s about human beings who were victims of crime as well as the defendants. It doesn’t matter whether [Mr Brown and Mr Leighton’s] motivation was with an unpaid bill. They don’t have to be angels. It’s whether what they reported was in the public interest or not.”
The Saabs “vehemently deny” all allegations of criminality, the court heard. The Tanzania-registered bank brought legal action against Fincen to oppose the ban but this failed and it came into force in 2017. The bank is now in liquidation.
The trial has now concluded and judgment is awaited.
To read more, access the following link: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/bank-sues-private-investigators-who-turned-into-whistleblowers-vhf23jrhs?shareToken=f9671567d8c2835debfa8d1e4c555355
Image source: www.ippmedia.com
Text source: https://www.thetimes.co.uk – 08/04/19