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A former Gibson Dunn partner’s bid to ‘clear his name’ has failed after he was struck off for deliberately misleading London’s High Court.
Peter Gray has been found by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal to have consciously misled the court by failing to draw attention to an error in evidence that had a ‘profound’ impact on the outcome of a successful application for a freezing order.
The controversy first arose in March 2015 when (then) Mr Justice Flaux found that Gray had deliberately misled him when applying for an order on behalf of his client, the Republic of Djibouti, to freeze the assets of a prominent citizen.
In granting the order, the judge had relied on telephone transcripts that had helped convict Abdourahman Boreh of terrorism in his absence, leading to an extradition request from Dubai that formed a key part of the application.
And yet a member of Gray’s team had alerted the Dubai-based partner shortly before the London hearing that the transcripts were wrongly dated, thereby throwing Boreh’s conviction into doubt.
Despite Gray having congratulated his team member for averting what he described as an almost certain ‘disaster’, the tribunal said minutes of a subsequent meeting ‘recorded the respondent as having said that they were going to “fudge” the dating issue’ in the freezing injunction application.
The SDT found that Gray had acted dishonestly by swearing an affidavit in support of the application which he knew to be misleading; allowing misleading submissions to be made to the court; and misleading the solicitors acting for the opposing side.
It said Gray had made a ‘strategic decision’ to rely on the extradition request for the freezing injunction ‘and did so in a misleading manner’.
The SDT pointed out that the affidavit “laboured the severity of the fact that Mr Boreh had been convicted of terrorism offences and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by the Djibouti court. It failed to mention or address the fact that the conviction was predicated on the erroneously dated transcripts.”
According to the judgment, during the hearing, Gray’s counsel, Lewis MacDonald, of 2 Hare Court, said his client ‘welcomed the long-awaited opportunity to publicly clear his name’ his reputation having been ‘destroyed’ by the High Court ruling.
MacDonald set out ‘at least 22 reasons why the respondent’s actions were neither deliberate, nor dishonest’.
These included glowing character references – including one by former chief executive of Dubai’s DIFC Courts Mark Beer – a ‘total lack of a plausible motive’ and a heavy workload and hectic travel schedule that peaked during the dates covering the allegations.
However, the tribunal said it ‘would be perverse to disregard the contemporaneous documentary evidence in favour of the character evidence adduced on the respondent’s behalf’. It also ruled that his workload and the fact the case involved a large team ‘spread over many different jurisdictions’ and without a London partner did not abdicate his responsibility.
‘Lack of plausible motive was not a determinative factor in considering whether the respondent was dishonest on the facts of the case,’ it stated. ‘On the respondent’s own case, the Djibouti litigation was ill-tempered and hard fought throughout.’
Gray was also ordered to pay £42,525 costs.