This case was for a total debt, including interest, of £234 million.
The case came to us here at The Sheriffs Office, with the debtor being Russian but residing in the UK and the debt originating in Russia. The debtor had secured personal guarantees for his business against the credit that had been extended to him.
The legal principles applying to this case were that ‘a foreign judgement in personam given by the court of a foreign country with jurisdiction to give that judgment may be enforceable by the courts of England and Wales by a claim for the amount due, provided it is a judgment for a debt or definite sum of money and is final and inconclusive’.
What made this case difficult to enforce
Once the judgment had been transferred up to the High Court for enforcement it was our job to enforce, this was made particularly difficult for several reasons, the first being that there were two properties in London, one with a lot of security. This is problematic as enforcement agents are unable to force entry into residential premises. Following a refusal of entry, we made an application before the Court for an order specifically permitting forced entry. This was defended; the order was, however granted, so that we could proceed to take control of goods. The goods that were taken control of included high value wine and spirits, sports equipment, designer clothing and accessories and some very expensive homeware and technology. The sale of these assets raised over £200,000 at auction.
Other useful courses of action if there is a high value debt
Freezing injunctions can be most useful because they prevent an individual selling an asset and are served without notice to the debtor.
A freezing injunction can be applied for only if you are issuing proceedings immediately: you should gather as much information as possible to support your application. This may include:
- Evidence that there is a risk the goods will be sold or disposed of
- Evidence of breach of trust
- Some evidence that your judgment application is likely to be successful
- Evidence of sufficient assets to cover the claim
- You must also be prepared to pay court costs and damages if the injunction is proved to be without merit
To find out more about how we can help with difficult cases including high value judgments, foreign debt and cases where enforcement may be deemed tricky do contact us here at The Sheriffs Office to speak to us about our approach.
David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance