Law Firm Ordered to Hand Over Accounts Linked to Tycoon’s Fraud

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DLA Piper, one of the world’s largest law firms, was ordered by a judge to hand over evidence in a London case involving a British venture capitalist accused of swiping million of pounds of investor money.

The firm will provide the documents after the judge ruled that there was “a very good arguable case” that the law firm’s services were being used to further a fraud on investors. Almost two-thirds of the £100 million ($128 million) in funds raised was never sent to a promising UK government-backed startup but instead kept by Harvey Boulter and his associates, the judge said.

DLA Piper effectively acted as a “neutral party” at the July hearing, the judge said. The law firm said it needed the judge’s approval before handing over privileged material.

Boulter denies any fraudulent conduct but doesn’t dispute where the bulk of the money went. In court documents he said investors either knew or should have known how his firm Porton Capital worked and that his firm bore the risk of first buying shares in the firms it promoted. 

The tycoon didn’t participate in the July hearing in London. Boulter’s London-based attorney declined to comment on these proceedings except to say he plans to contest the allegations at trial next year.

Boulter is separately awaiting a criminal trial in Namibia over allegations he shot dead his game park manager at his hunting lodge during an argument. He says that he acted in self-defence. 

In the UK, Boulter is being sued by liquidators for now-defunct Enigma Diagnostics, a UK Ministry of Defence-backed startup developing rapid testing kit prototypes. They said in earlier court documents that the investor funds that were supposedly destined for Enigma moved through DLA Piper’s bank accounts.

The law firm said in a legal filing for the hearing that the liquidators had disclosed new communications with investors that appear “to be inconsistent with the understanding they had of the relevant transactions at the time.”

Boulter’s Porton Capital “has no right to legal professional privilege in relation to material held by DLA Piper,” Judge Nicholas Thompsell said in his ruling. He said the documents were particularly important because only the law firm now holds substantial contemporary files.

“DLA Piper is committed to upholding the highest professional standards,” the firm said in an email. “DLA Piper could not disclose Porton’s privileged documentation without first receiving the court’s guidance via this hearing.”

“The judge acknowledged that we acted in the correct manner and that we have set a good precedent,” the firm said.

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