A Fieldfisher team led by Daniel Hayward and Rebecca McKee in London together with Simon Colton QC and Sam O'Leary of One Essex Court have secured an important judgment for Mr Joseph Benkel, the Israeli court-appointed trustee in bankruptcy of Mr Eliezer Fishman.
Mr Fishman is a prominent Israeli businessman and real estate investor who was declared bankrupt in June 2017. At the time, his bankruptcy was rumoured to be the largest private bankruptcy in Israel's history.
In a judgment handed down on 30 March 2021 by Mr Justice Morgan in the Chancery Division, Fieldfisher's client was fully vindicated following an almost three-year battle to prove that Mr Fishman had deliberately sought to put, at present unknown, German real estate assets out of the reach of his creditors.
The court found that Mr Fishman attempted to effect this using a complex web of English and German companies, and Spain-based "straw" directors who were found to be holding their interests in the structure for Mr Fishman.
The English court had jurisdiction to hear Mr Benkel's claim because the First Defendant, the holding company on top of that structure, is incorporated in England. The English holding company therefore acted as the "anchor defendant", which tied the proceedings to this jurisdiction.
Mr Benkel, an Israeli lawyer with over 30 years' experience in complex litigation, was appointed by the Israeli court in 2017 on the same day Mr Fishman was declared bankrupt.
The Claim forms part of a much bigger suite of actions and investigations that Mr Benkel has been involved in around the world, including in Germany and Israel. The English court findings will assist Mr Benkel in his quest to maximise recovery for Mr Fishman's creditors.
Prior to judgment, Fieldfisher's client Mr Benkel had already secured:
(1) A proprietary injunction for the preservation of shares held in an English registered holding company over a German company;
(2) A proprietary injunction over the membership interest of a Romanian national, residing in Spain, acting as the sole director of the English holding company;
(3) The appointment of receivers of all shares in the German company held by the English company;
(4) An order for two German residents to be deposed in Germany in a local German court under the Taking of Evidence Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 1206/2001); and
(5) Joinder of an additional defendant after trial had started.
Commenting on the High Court judgment, Fieldfisher director Rebecca McKee commented: "This is vindication for our client, Advocate Benkel, whom we, along with barristers Simon Colton QC and Sam O'Leary at One Essex Court, have assisted over a number of years to investigate and prepare evidence that pointed firmly towards the conclusions that Mr Justice Morgan reached at trial.
"The serious findings of Morgan J will be powerful weapons in the continued work that remains for the trustee to restore lost assets to Mr Fishman's creditors."
Fieldfisher partner Daniel Hayward commented:
"We are delighted for our client. This is another great advert for the English High Court's ability to deal methodically and robustly with complex cross-border issues of asset dissipation and concealment."
This successful outcome for Mr Benkel is the latest in a string of recent notable successes for Fieldfisher's leading commercial litigation team.
In March, the team secured a rare summary judgment claim for a high net worth client in a substantial banking tech-fraud; in February, the firm achieved a significant win in the High Court, involving the dismissal of a US$300 million claim against our client; and we recently attained a positive outcome for our client in an interlocutory application relating to a US$2.6 billion claim and freezing order brought against him by PrivatBank, the largest commercial bank in Ukraine.
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