Tory Party Donor Accused of Hiding Emails In Qatar Fight
(Bloomberg) -- The Qatari government accused financier David Rowland and his son of “brazenly” hiding evidence as it sought to escalate its legal dispute with Banque Havilland over its alleged role in an economic attack on the country.
Lawyers for the Qataris said that U.K. Conservative Party backer David Rowland, who controlled the bank, and Edmund, who was a director at the firm, intended to conceal emails after questions arose about the private bank’s alleged role in leading a financial attack against Qatar in the fall of 2017.
The two discussed moving future conversations off Banque Havilland’s email system, according to a call transcript that was disclosed at a London court hearing on Monday.
“We don’t put anything down on the bank emails,” David said in one exchange, according to Qatar’s lawyers.
“Nothing. No I agree. We’ll cut that out,” Edmund replied.
In another call, Edmund suggested to David to “throw all your phones away,” Qatar’s lawyer, David Mumford, told the judge at a hearing where he was attempting to gain access to further bank documents. Mumford didn’t say whether that ever happened.
Qatar sued Banque Havilland alleging it orchestrated a scheme to manipulate currency and bond markets during an embargo that the Gulf nation said cost it billions. It’s relying on a presentation prepared for the chief executive of a United Arab Emirates sovereign wealth fund that Qatar says details an attempt to deplete the country’s reserves and damage its ability to host the soccer World Cup in 2022.
“Banque Havilland firmly denies any allegations of improper conduct,” a spokesperson for the bank said. “It rejects the claims in their entirety and notes that the claimant has still provided no meaningful evidence to support its allegations.”
“The bank was not part of any conspiracy,” the Banque Havilland spokesperson said.
The bank said Qatar disclosed the phone transcripts selectively and that the Rowlands had no intention of destroying or concealing evidence. Rather, David and Edmund were concerned that their phones and emails had been hacked, said David Quest, a lawyer for the bank. The Rowlands themselves aren’t defendants in the case.
David Rowland contributed more than 4 million pounds ($5.6 million) to Britain’s Conservative Party in the two years after buying Banque Havilland, making him one of its biggest donors at that time.
The phone calls were revealed as Qatar asked a London judge to order access to a 2018 “forensic investigation” by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP that was commissioned by the Luxembourg-based bank at the behest of the country’s regulator and then later provided to the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority. Banque Havilland argued the report was privileged.
The private bank has repeatedly insisted that the trading strategy discussed in the “Distressed Countries Fund” presentation was never implemented. The presentation was prepared by a former bank analyst.
The October 2017 call between the two Rowlands took place shortly after they became aware that an online publication, the Intercept, was intending to publish the leaked presentation. David Rowland’s bank email account was deactivated the same day, Mumford said.
The day after the publication of the presentation, another Rowland son, Harley, wrote to his sister: “It’s f---ing true, how do we row back,” according to a court filing.
In previous documents filed in the case, the bank has said the presentation was nothing more than a risk-management strategy for UAE holdings of Qatari bonds, but it abandoned part of that defense Monday ahead of next year’s trial.
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