Stephen specialises in litigation and arbitration in the fields of commercial, company, trusts and business law. Clients refer to him as “as astute as they come, excellent with clients and has a reassuring manner” (Chambers & Partners).

With a background of high profile work for the DTI and Inland Revenue as junior counsel to the Crown (Chancery) prior to taking silk in 2002, Stephen has developed an extensive practice in the fields of hostile corporate and trust litigation, insolvency, civil fraud and joint venture disputes (in both a corporate and partnership context), often for private clients.

Stephen has practiced in the regulatory field for many years and was appointed a Joint Inspector by the DTI (now BERR) to investigate allegations of market abuse. His on-going regulatory work includes cases is in the area of collective Investment schemes and land banking.

Stephen has an extensive off-shore practice, particularly in the British Virgin Islands (since 1995) and Cayman Islands. He is regularly involved in multi-jurisdictional disputes, advising on global strategy, interim remedies, conflicts of law and asset recovery and appearing before courts and arbitral tribunals in a wide variety of jurisdictions.

Recent notable cases include acting for the successful claimants in Papadimitriou v Credit Agricole, a seminal decision of the Privy Council establishing a new test for constructive notice of beneficial interests; Re: China Shanshui, acting for the majority shareholders in successfully challenging the ability of directors to institute winding up proceedings without shareholder approval; Re Fairfield Sentry,  acting for members seeking to establish distribution entitlements in the liquidation of Madoff’s largest investor; TMSF v Merrill Lynch, a ground breaking decision of the Privy Council that a judgment creditor, for whom Stephen acted, could obtain the appointment of receivers over a power of revocation of a Cayman trust and for the Moscow patriachate in a dispute as to the ownership of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in London.

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Areas of experience

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  • Arbitration

    Arbitration, both domestic and international, is a major feature of Stephen’s practice. Whilst this work is, by its nature, confidential, publicised recent examples include:

    • Danone -v- Wahaha : a high profile joint venture dispute concerning the operation of the largest drinks producer in China. It resulted in muliti-jurisdictional litigation with Stephen acting as lead counsel in proceedings in the British Virgin Islands and Samoa and eight SCC arbitrations in Stockholm
    • Vee Networks Ltd -v- Econet Wireless International Ltd : a battle over the rights to construct and operate a mobile telephone network in Nigeria. The case involved a series of ICC arbitrations in which Stephen acted in London and Abuja and associated court proceedings in England and Nigeria.
  • Banking and Financial Services

    Stephen has considerable experience of fund and financial services work which forms a natural extension of his expertise in the international arena and in company, commercial litigation, fraud and insolvency work in particular. He is recommended by Legal 500/2011 and his recent cases include:

    • Fairfield Sentry: Fairfield Sentry was the largest investor in Madoff. This is likely to become the leading case on the claw back of redemptions.
    • Kingate: Another fund with billions invested in Madoff related companies. Stephen advised on the winding up of the fund and the appointment of a provisional liquidator.
    • Tasarruf Mevduati Sigorta Fonu v Merrill lynch Bank & Trust Company (Cayman) Ltd & Ors [2011] UKPC 17 (Privy Council): The Privy Council has decided that a judgment debtor who has placed money in trust but retained a power of revocation over the trust can be forced to exercise the power for the benefit of his creditors.
    • Zaria Investments Ltd v Isis Investments Ltd: Dispute with a subsidiary of the failed Kaupthing Bank about the proceeds arising from the sale of the Somerfield supermarket chain.
    • GVEC IV: US$250m Taiwanese/US investment fraud involving the PEM Group involving litigation in the BVI.
    • Michailidis v Caylon: Proceedings in Gibraltar for recovery of US$15m from a French bank on the grounds of knowing receipt.
    • Stephen advised on the operation of the Banking Business (Jersey) Law 1991.
    • Stephen acted in a financial services regulation case involving the prohibition of deposit taking in Jersey and what you needed to do to avoid benig labelled as a deposit taker.
    • Stephen is advising on a number of cases involving the financial services regulations and whether certain schemes qualify as collective investment schemes.
  • Civil Fraud, Asset Tracing & Recovery

    Stephen has appeared in numerous cases involving all aspects of civil fraud and asset tracing both in England and overseas. He has extensive experience of the conflict of law and cross-border recognition issues that frequently arise in such cases. Recommended in this area by both Legal 500 and Chambers & Prs and described as “a proper team player, who is creative and innovative in his advice”, recent examples of his practice in this area include:

    • Papadimitriou v Credit Agricole a claim in Gibraltar to recover the proceeds of stolen art deco furniture from a bank that had failed to make appropriate enquiries. Stephen acted for the claimants who were successful in the Court of Appeal and Privy Council.
    • VTB v Parline VTB v Parline Claim in England for 1bn roubles by a Russian bank alleging fraudulent conduct by the controllers of one of its customers. The action was dismissed. Stephen acted for the successful defendants.
    • Baturina v Chistyakov fraudulent misrepresentation claim in England for €97m in relation to a Russian joint venture to develop property in Morocco.
    • Magner V Jyske Bank (Gibraltar) Ltd a claim arising out of the misappropriation of trust funds by a fraudulent firm of solicitors
    • Black Swan Investments Ltd v Harvest View Ltd: A fraud claim in relation to the importation of vehicles into South Africa. Stephen acts for the defendants in relation to BVI proceedings. A seminal case on freezing injunctions and the application of the Siskina principle to non-UK jurisdictions
    • Fairfield Sentry : Acting as lead counsel to the liquidators of Fairfield Sentry, the largest investor in the Madoff Ponzi scheme fraud, seeking to recover a multi-billion dollar loss
    • eChinaCash Inc v Light Year Partners LLP: A claim to recover the shares of a BVI company misappropriated by one of its directors
    • GVEC IV: Acting for the claimant in relation to a US$250m Taiwanese/US investment Fraud involving the PEM Group in litigation in the BVI, acting for Standard Chartered Bank.
    • Danone v Wahaha Group: This is one of the biggest cases to arise so far in mainland China. It involves allegations of civil fraud against a Chinese entrepreneur whose drinks company (the largest in China) had entered into a joint venture with Danone. The claim is for 800m Euros. Stephen has been acting for the entrepreneur in 8 SCC arbitrations in Stockholm and in satellite litigation in the BVI and Western Samoa.
    • TMSF v Demirel: Stephen acted for the Turkish Financial Services Authority which sought to recover the proceeds of a massive Turkish bank fraud by the never previously attempted method of appointing receivers over the power of revocation in a Cayman trust. The Authority was successful in the Privy Council in recovering US$24m.
  • Commercial Litigation

    Stephen Moverley Smith has dealt with all manner of business disputes, amassing particular experience in matters with an international dimension. Legal 500/2011 recommends him as “innovative and creative; he can often find a way for a client where others cannot”, whilst Chambers & Prs recommends him for commercial chancery and offshore work as “a leading performer in the BVI Commercial Court”. He is said to perform “admirably, calmly and coherently in court“.

    His more notable cases include:

    • Papadimitriou v Credit Agricole a claim in Gibraltar to recover the proceeds of stolen art deco furniture from a bank that had failed to make appropriate enquiries. Stephen acted for the claimants who were successful in the Court of Appeal and Privy Council.
    • VTB v Parline VTB v Parline Claim in England for 1bn roubles by a Russian bank alleging fraudulent conduct by the controllers of one of its customers. The action was dismissed. Stephen acted for the successful defendants.
    • Baturina v Chistyakov fraudulent misrepresentation claim in England for €97m in relation to a Russian joint venture to develop property in Morocco.
    • Magner V Jyske Bank (Gibraltar) Ltd a claim arising out of the misappropriation of trust funds by a fraudulent firm of solicitors
    • TMSF v Demirel: Stephen acted for the Turkish Financial Services Authority which sought to recover the proceeds of a massive Turkish bank fraud by the never previously attempted method of appointing receivers over the power of revocation in a Cayman trust. The Authority was successful in the Privy Council in recovering US$24m.
    • Black Swan Investments Ltd v Harvest View Ltd: fraud claim in relation to the importation of vehicles into South Africa. A seminal case on freezing injunctions and the application of the Siskina principle to non-UK jurisdictions.
    • Danone -v- Wahaha : a very high profile joint venture dispute between Danone and the largest drinks producer in China. Muliti-jurisdictional litigation with proceedings in the British Virgin Islands and Samoa and a series of associated SCC arbitrations in Stockholm.
    • Kensington International Ltd -v- Montrow International : acting for the claimants in $100 million soverign debt dispute litigated in the British Virgin Islands.
    • Re Fairfield Sentry Ltd : acting for the liquidators in relation to claims arising from the collapse of the largest of the Madoff feeder funds.
    • Vee Networks Ltd v Econet Ltd : a series of commercial arbitrations in Nigeria and England concerning the operation and development of a mobile telephone network in Africa and the enforcement of rights of premption. Stephen acted for a minority shareholder.
    • Isoft Group plc v Misys Holdings Ltd : a dispute as to whether the vendorunder a share sale agreement had a binding obligation to offer after-acquired property to the purchaser. Stephen acted for the vendor.
    • Re Norman Island : a commercial Dispute relating to the mooring rights of a private island in the Caribbean.
    • Tasarruf Mevduati Sigorta Fonu v Merrill Lynch Bank & Trust Company (Cayman) Ltd & Ors [2011] UKPC 17 (Privy Council): The Privy Council has decided that a judgment debtor who has placed money in trust but retained a power of revocation over the trust can be forced to exercise the power for the benefit of his creditors.
    • Watford Petroleum Ltd -v- Interoil Trading SA : large scale litigation (a section 459 Petition and four related claims) arising out of a joint venture for refining and selling oil in Ukraine. Stephen acted for the defendants.
  • Company

    Stephen Moverley Smith has extensive experience within the company law sphere, as recognised by both Chambers & Partners and Legal 500. Chambers & Partners 2016 recommend him as “As astute as they come, excellent with clients and has a reassuring manner”.Whilst regularly advising and acting in relation to all aspects of company law, ranging from boardroom battles and shareholder claims to directors’ disqualification (which he dealt with for many years as a member of the Treasury Solicitor’s ‘A’ Panel). He is particularly renowned for his expertise in relation to complex international joint venture disputes, regularly advising on global strategy, related conflict of law issues and interim remedies.

    His many cases include:

    • Shanshui Cement Co Ltd Shareholder battle in the Cayman Islands to gain control of China’s largest cement producer. Stephen acted for two large shareholders who successfully opposed the appointment of provisional liquidators
    • Fairfield Sentry Ltd BVI proceedings concerning the largest investor in the Madoff fraud and an issue as to the priority of unpaid redeemers
    • OAS Investments Ltd BVI proceedings concerning the residual powers of directors to engage in rival Brazillian an US restructuring when provisional liquidators have been appointed. It involves Brazil’s largest construction company. Stephen was instructed by the provisional liquidators
    • Re Mobilepeak Holdings Ltd A trial in the Cayman Islands concerning the valuation of a shareholding in a Chinese mobile phone chip manufacturer
    • Gallea Limited BVI proceedings to terminate the solvent liquidation of a BVI company opposed on the grounds that the applicant was party to a fraud
    • Franbar Holdings Ltd v Casualty Plus Ltd : acting in a shareholder dispute over pre-emption rights contained in a shareholders’ agreement.
    • Re Reserve International Ltd : acting for a BVI investment company in relation to a dispute about the compulsory redemption of shares.
    • Re GVEC IV Ltd : acting for an international bank in a fraud claim against a director of a company in which the bank held share warrants.
    • Danone v Wahaha : a massive joint venture dispute over the operation of the largest drinks company in China. Stephen was acting for the successful defendants in litigation in the BVI and Samoa and associated arbitrations in Stockholm.
    • Re Grand Bahamas Port Authority : a long running Bahamas boardroom battle over the port company operating Grand Bahama – Stephen was acting for one of the directors.
    • Vee Networks Ltd v Econet Wireless Ltd : a dispute about pre-emption rights in a Nigerian mobile telephone company. Stephen acted in arbitrations in England and Nigeria.
    • Re Blue Ribbon Ltd : acting for a shareholder in a dispute about the ownership and operation of a BVI company.
    • Re Weiner : acting for a shareholder in a dispute about the operation of a shareholders’ agreement.
    • Watford Petroleum Ltd -v- Interoil Trading : large scale litigation (a section 459 Petition and four related claims) arising out of a joint venture for refining and selling oil in Ukraine.
    • Astian Group Ltd -v- TNK : acting for a minority shareholder pursing a derivative action against a BVI joint venture oil company operating in Russia.
    • Fiske Nominees Ltd & Ors -v- Dwyka Diamonds Ltd : acting for the successful claimant who established that it was necessary, when making a takeover bid, for the majority shareholders to give the minority shareholders sufficient information to make an informed decision on any share purchase offer.
    • In the matter of Ciro Citterio Menswear plc : a dispute as to the application of s. 330 Companies Act 1985 to an informal loan made to a director. Stephen acted for the administrators.
    • Re Forcesun Ltd : an example of the many public interest winding up petitions on which Stephen appeared for the Secretary of State.
    • Re Wilmott Trading Ltd : establishing that a waste management licence did not vest as bona vacantia on the dissolution of a company. Stephen acted for the Environment Agency.
    • Re Rhonda Waste Disposal Ltd : a seminal case as to the ability of the Environment Agency to prosecute a company in administration for breaches of a waste management licence. Stephen acted for the Environment Agency.
    • Re H Laing Demolition Contractors Ltd : a leading case on shadow and de factor directors in the context of directors’ disqualification. Stephen acted for the Secretary of State on this and many other directors’ disqualification applications.
    • Re Double S Printers Ltd (In liquidation) : acting for the Inland Revenue in successfully contending that a director’s debenture securing his loan to the company to stave off insolvency constituted a floating charge.
    • eChinaCash Inc v Light Year Partners LLP : acting for the claimants in dispute about the ownership of shares in a BVI company operating the largest loyalty card programme in China
  • Hedge Funds & Structured Investment Vehicles

    Stephen has long been involved in many of the leading hedge fund cases, particularly in the British Virgin Islands. Recommended in the current Legal 500 for Banking & Finance and in Chambers & Prs for commercial chancery and offshore work (his hedge fund expertise being noted), recent examples of his cases include:

    • Spectrum Galaxy Fund Ltd: Stephen is acting for a creditor seeking to prevent the termination of the liquidation of a hedge fund on the grounds of a change in the law following Westford.
    • Re Westford Special Situations Fund Ltd : a BVI dispute concerning the claim of a redeeming shareholder to liquidate a hedge fund as a creditor and the ability of the fund to redeem in specie. Stephen acted for the fund successfully on appeal
    • Re A Company : a hedge fund dispute in the BVI concerning the rights of investors where redemptions have been suspended to wind up the fund on the grounds of loss of substratum
    • Re Reserve International Liquidity Fund Ltd : a hedge fund dispute in the BVI concerning redemption rights
    • Fairfield Sentry Ltd : acting for the liquidators of the largest investor in Madoff in relation to claims made by and against the fund
    • Kingate Global Ltd : acting in relation to the liquidation of this Madoff feeder fund
    • Lancer Offshore Inc : acting as an expert witness in US proceedings concerning a BVI hedge fund
    • Re A : advising in relation to the calculation of a fund’s NAV and its ability to re-state past NAVs
  • Insolvency

    With a background acting for the department of trade and industry in relation to public interest winding up petitions and directors’ disqualification, and the inland revenue, environment agency and treasury solicitor in relation to many other aspects of insolvency, Stephen has developed a very extensive business restructuring/ insolvency experience ranging over many years. More recently he has been involved in a wide range of international cases raising cross-border insolvency issues, including the operation of UNCITRAL model law provisions in a variety of jurisdictions and the interplay with Chapter 15 recognition in the US. He is recommended for insolvency in Legal 500 as “accessible and a real team player”, and the current edition of Chambers & Prs notes his “vast experience and understanding of the intricacies of insolvency law” whilst also stating that “his work is always top-notch, his advocacy is really effective and clients like his mix of gravitas and approachability”.

    His recent cases include:

    • Gallea Ltd: proceedings in the BVI regarding the liquidation of a BVI company.
    • Spectrum Galaxy Fund Ltd: Creditor seeking to prevent the termination of the liquidation of a hedge fund on the grounds of a change in the law following Westford (see below).
    • Quantek Opportunity Fund Ltd: Stephen successfully represented a US$2 billion hedge fund in resisting attempts to wind it up on the grounds of loss of substratum, persuading the BVI court not to follow a line of authority developed in Cayman.
    • Fairfield Sentry Ltd : acting for the liquidators of the largest Madoff feeder fund in relation to a wide variety of claims made by and against it
    • Westford Special Situations Fund Ltd : acting for the fund in its successful appeal against a winding up order obtained by a redeeming investor claiming to be a creditor
    • Re a Company : resisting a claim by a redeeming investor to wind up a hedge fund
    • Re Kaupthing Bank (IOM) : acting in relation to a claim in the insolvency of an offshore bank
    • Atala Group Ltd : acting for a creditor appealing the rejection of its proof of debt
    • Re: Kingate Global Ltd : acting in relation to the liquidation of the fund
    • Re: Reserve International Ltd : acting for a money market liquidity fund in relation to an application by redeeming shareholders to appoint liquidators
    • Re a Company : obtaining the appointment of provisional liquidators in a sovereign debt claim
    • Hicking v Baker : (CA) acting for a bankrupt successfully appealing a committal order made under s. 364 Insolvency Act 1986
    • Re : Westbond : acting in relation to the insolvency of an offshore bank
  • International & offshore

    The “highly thought of” (Legal 500/2009) Stephen Moverley Smith has a well deserved reputation for excellence in international commercial Chancery work.  His recent cases include:

    • Danone -v-  Wahaha Group (2007/2008 Ongoing) High profile joint venture dispute concerning the operation of the largest drinks producer in China. Muliti-jurisdictional litigation with proceedings in the British Virgin Islands and Samoa and a number of associated International Arbitrations.
    • Kensington International Ltd -v-  Montrow International (2008).  $100 million soverign debt dispute litigated in the British Virgin Islands.
    • Madoff investment fund – acting in the liquidation of this fund
    • Re a Joint Venture Dispute: The operation and development of a mobile telephone network in Africa. Several US$100m are involved. Disputes are to be heard in Africa, England and Denmark.
    • Re Norman Island: Dispute relating to the mooring rights of a private island.
    • Vee Networks Ltd -v- Econet Wireless International Ltd [2005] 1 Lloyds Rep 192: Where there was an irregularity of procedure by the arbitrator under the Arbitration Act 1996 s.68, it was enough to show that the irregularity caused the arbitrator to reach a conclusion unfavourable to the applicant that, but for the irregularity, he might well never have reached, provided that the opposite conclusion was at least reasonably arguable. It was not normally appropriate for the court to try the material issue to ascertain whether substantial injustice had been caused.
    • Wade v Wade [2003] AllER (D) 38: World wide freezing order against Defendant, who resided in Australia, over proceeds of sale of a company which were claimed to be covered by a written agreement in the divorce settlement. Injunction was discharged as it was unlikely the terms of the agreement could be shown to apply to the sale of the company and due to lack of evidence of dissipation.
    • Watford Petroleum Ltd -v- Interoil Trading SA [2003] LTL 16/7/2003 : Large scale litigation (a section 459 Petition and four related claims) arising out of a joint venture for refining and selling oil in Ukraine.
  • Real Estate Litigation

    Stephen Moverley Smith is regularly involved in property related litigation of which his most notable recent cases include:

    • Woods -v- Virgin Gorda Beach Club [2004] BVI High Court : A promise of leasehold land to the Claimants by the Defendant which later sought to go back on its promise, but was, it was argued, estopped from doing so in circumstances where the Claimants had relied on the promise to their detriment.
    • Twenty Two A Property Investments Ltd -v- Simpson Curtis [2000] EG 140 Court of Appeal : The defendant solicitors were liable for damages after failing to monitor adequately the progress of a property transaction, the outcome of which had substantial financial consequences for their client.
  • Trusts, Probate & Estates

    As a leading commercial Chancery barrister recommended by both the current editions of Chambers & Partners and Legal 500, Stephen has very considerable experience of trust, probate and estate matters. According to Legal 500, he “combines astonishing intellectual ability with sound judgement and approachability”. While many of his cases are highly confidential, the following examples provide an indication of the scope of his practice:

    • Tasarruf Mevduati Sigorta Fonu v Merrill Lynch Bank & Trust Company (Cayman) Ltd & Ors [2011] UKPC 17 (Privy Council): The Privy Council has decided that a judgment debtor who has placed money in trust but retained a power of revocation over the trust can be forced to exercise the power for the benefit of his creditors.
    • Dean v Bowlby : a dispute as to whether the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in London is held on trust for the Moscow or Constantinople patriachates. Stephen acted for the successful Moscow patriachate.
    • Re G Trust : an application dealing with the licensing of protectors under the BVI Bank and Trust Companies Act 1990 and the consequences of acting without a licence.
    • Re H Trust : an application in relation to the appointment of protectors of a family settlement and the requirement of independence in relation to that appointment
    • Re DM Trust : advising in relation to distributions to be made by a employee benefit trust following the sale of the underlying business.
    • Re B Trust : a dispute as to the liability of trustees of a family settlement in relation to a sale of trust assets. Stephen acted for the trustee
    • Re: G : This cases relates to a number of offshore trusts in which an Asian dynasty had placed their wealth. It is possible that certain actions are invalid or ultra vires. There are US$13 billion tax consequences.
    • Re Corbett : acting in relation to a series of issues concerning the administration of a large estate.
    • Re R Trust : a proprietary claim to trust assets. Stephen acted for the trustee.
    • T Choithram International SA -v- Pagarani & Ors : a seminal case which ultimately went to the Privy Council as to the ability of a settlor to gift shares to a charitable foundation by an oral declaration of trust.