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Sophie Holcombe

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Sophie Holcombe

Areas of Expertise

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Year of Call: 2009 sholcombe@serlecourt.co.uk

Overview

Sophie Holcombe has a commercial chancery practice, with a particular focus on contentious domestic and offshore trusts and civil fraud. Sophie previously acted in the BTA v Ablyazov enforcement proceedings, and in Gudavadze v Anisimov, a claim for over $1.5bn relating to the Russian mining company Metalloinvest. During 2014 and 2015 Sophie was instructed on behalf of trustees in Z Trusts I to VIII [2015] JRC 031; [2015] JRC 196C; and [2015] JRC 214. Sophie is currently instructed in fraud cases concerning investment in Brazilian teak plantations and mismanagement of a major investment portfolio in Switzerland.

Areas of Expertise and Cases




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Civil Fraud

Sophie's recent matters include:

  • ECO Quest Plc v GFI Consultants Ltd: Led by David Casement QC, Sophie acts for Ecoquest, a company that specialises in ethical investments, to recover £2.2 million of losses arising from a fraudulent scheme perpetrated by the Defendants (Mr Bowers and Mr Skeene) which offered investment in Brazilian teak plantations.
  • Acting as junior counsel on behalf of the beneficiaries of two trusts which suffered multi-million dollar losses as a result of fraud perpetrated by a Swiss Bank. Litigation is anticipated and/or ongoing in multiple jurisdictions.
  • Advising the victim of a Ponzi scheme in relation to knowing receipt claims threatened by other victims of the scheme.
  • Led by John Machell QC, Sophie acted as junior counsel for a Norwich Pharmacal respondent in the BTA v Ablyazov enforcement proceedings, including securing the return of the respondent’s passports delivered up pursuant to a passport order preventing the non-party leaving the jurisdiction until compliance with the disclosure order.

In 2012 Sophie assisted Paul Chaisty QC in the lead up to and during trial in Access Bank v Akingbola [2012] EWHC 1124, a fraud and company law claim for the sum of approximately $700 million from the ex-chief executive of the bank. Sophie also provided assistance to leading counsel in Aeroflot v Berezovsky in relation to a jurisdiction challenge.

Previously, Sophie advised in relation to mis-selling claims following liquidation of the investment company, insurance fraud carried out by former company directors, and acted for the wife of a man convicted of fraud against his employer, in the employer’s restitution claim.


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Commercial Litigation

Sophie acts in and advises on a wide variety of commercial disputes both with and without leaders.

Sophie’s recent matters include:

  • Grupo Ozarow SA v Clean Energy Trading Ltd [2016] EWHC 2322: led by Stephen Houseman QC and Jonathan Harris QC (Hons) successfully discharged a proprietary injunction granted in support of proceedings in Poland. The injunction had the effect of freezing the business of Clean Energy Trading which trades in European Union Carbon Credits.
  • Kupeli v Sirketi (t/a Cyprus Turkish Airlines) [2016] EWHC 930: led by Jonathan Adkin QC, Sophie acted for a Turkish airline defending claims arising from a failed takeover of the Northern Cyprus national airline. At the end of the Part 1 Trial 95% of the 838 pleaded claims were dismissed. The costs decision is subject to an application for permission to appeal.
  • Gudavadze v Anisimov (2014): instructed as part of a team led by Paul Girolami QC and Jonathan Adkin QC for the Claimants in a claim for over $1.5bn concerning the Russian mining company Metalloinvest.
  • Instructed as sole counsel in a contractual dispute involving allegations of breach of fiduciary duty owed by a legal consultant to a sub-advisor to a specialist third party litigation funder incorporated in the BVI.
  • Acted as junior counsel in a £6.7M breach of warranty and misrepresentation claim arising out of the acquisition of a well known UK water business.
  • Acted as part of team led by Alan Boyle QC in relation to interim proceedings in Charles Lissack v Manhattan Loft Corporation Limited, a claim arising out of the St Pancras development.
  • Appeared on behalf of the third defendant SC DG Petrol SRL v Vitol Broking Ltd [2013] EWHC 3920 to resist relief from sanctions.
  • Assisted David Drake in resisting a challenge to a major financial service provider's standard terms and conditions under the European Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations.

Sophie is regularly instructed in relation to injunctive relief proceedings, including obtaining and resisting search orders, freezing injunctions and Norwich Pharmacal relief, both in the UK and in various offshore jurisdictions. In 2013 she assisted in obtaining Norwich Pharmacal orders in Jersey and Guernsey against banks in support of a breach of trust claim. In 2012 she assisted in an application for free-standing Mareva relief in Bahamian enforcement proceedings, and successfully applied for offshore interpleader relief.



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Insolvency

Sophie regularly appears in the High Court on a range of company and insolvency matters.

Sophie has particular experience of advising on claims against directors and shadow directors of companies in liquidation following suspected fraud or breach of duty. She has previously acted on behalf of liquidators in relation to s212 claims against former directors suspected of misappropriating company funds, and on behalf of a former director of a company in liquidation to defend a contribution claim brought by a fellow director arising out of the company’s purchase of its own shares.

Sophie has experience of advising liquidators of companies, LLPs and charities. Recently, Sophie advised liquidators of an LLP in relation to the recovery of overdrawn loan accounts from former members, and the availability of a defence of set-off arising from payments made by the members on behalf of the LLP pursuant to personal guarantees.

At the end of 2012 Sophie worked at Conyers Dill and Pearman, Cayman Islands, for three months, providing insolvency advice in relation to liquidation of hedge funds and resisting an injunction to prevent a debenture holder from enforcing its security by conducting the highest value property auction in the Cayman Islands to date.



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Trusts and Probate

Sophie regularly advises and acts on contentious domestic and offshore trust and probate matters, often involving multiple jurisdictions and complex corporate structures. She also has experience of advising charities as to the validity of testimony gifts, including the applicability of the cy près doctrine.

Sophie’s recent matters include:

  • Advising trustees on their duties in circumstances where the settlor had reserved to himself powers in relation to the running of an international group of companies in the oil industry, and bondholders had raised concerns regarding the management of the business.
  • Acting as junior counsel on behalf of the beneficiaries of two trusts which suffered multi-million dollar losses as a result of fraud perpetrated by a Swiss Bank.
  • Advising on a beneficiary’s request for disclosure from trustees under Data Protection legislation following the Court of Appeal’s decision in Dawson-Damer v Taylor Wessing.
  • Advising on proposed variation of restrictive investment powers contained in a Trust Deed.
  • In 2014 and 2015 Sophie was instructed in the Z Trusts I to VIII litigation in Jersey. The litigation involved consideration of the appropriate procedure for winding down a Jersey Trust in circumstances where the net liabilities of the trust exceed its net assets (Z Trusts [2015] JRC 031 and Z Trusts [2015] JRC 214); issues of priority between former and current trustees' liens over trust assets; and the exercise of fiduciary powers (the power to appoint additional trustees) in relation to a trust which has insufficient assets to meet its liabilities (Z Trusts [2015] JRC 196C).
  • Led by Richard Harrison QC, Sophie acted as junior counsel for a Jersey trust in English matrimonial proceedings regarding London situated property, and advised on the associated Beddoe application.
  • Led by Giles Richardson, Sophie advised Belize trustees on potential enforcement of orders in French succession proceedings over assets situated in London owned by a trust governed by Jersey law.
  • A variety of breach of trust claims, including Volaw Trustee Limited v Trustcorp (Jersey) Limited [2013] JRC 028.
  • Successfully striking out a probate counterclaim in a dispute regarding a conflict between an English and Sri-Lankan will.
  • Acting as junior counsel in a probate dispute, involving issues of res judicata following referral of disputes between various family members to Beth Din arbitration.

Add section

Offshore

Sophie is regularly instructed in offshore trust disputes, including advising on: Beddoe applications; the enforceability of foreign judgments against trust assets; and submission to the foreign court’s jurisdiction. 

Since 2016 Sophie has acted as junior counsel, advising beneficiaries of two trusts which suffered multi-million dollar losses as a result of fraud perpetrated by a Swiss Bank. Litigation is anticipated and/or ongoing in various jurisdictions.

In 2014 to 2015 Sophie was instructed in the Z Trusts I to VIII litigation in Jersey. The litigation involves consideration of the appropriate procedure for winding down a Jersey Trust in circumstances where the net liabilities of the trust exceed its net assets (Z Trusts [2015] JRC 031 and Z Tursts [2015] JRC 214); issues of priority between former and current trustees' liens over trust assets; and the proper exercise of fiduciary powers, namely the power to appoint additional trustees (Z Trusts [2015] JRC 196C).

In 2015, led by Giles Richardson, Sophie advised Belize trustees on potential enforcement of orders in French succession proceedings over assets situated in London owned by a trust governed by Jersey law in advance of Beddoe application in Jersey.

In 2014 led by Richard Harrison QC, Sophie acted as junior counsel for a Jersey trust in English matrimonial proceedings regarding London situated property, and advised on the associated Beddoe application.

Sophie has a number of ongoing matters in the Bahamas and regularly acts as junior counsel in domestic litigation involving cross jurisdictional elements, including the BTA v Ablyazov enforcement proceedings, and Gudavadze v Anisimov, a $1.5 billion dispute between former oligarchs relating to the Russian mining company Metalloinvest, involving questions of Russian and Georgian law.

Sophie was previously seconded for three months to Conyers Dill and Pearman, Cayman Islands, providing insolvency advice in relation to liquidation of hedge funds and resisting an injunction to prevent a debenture holder from enforcing its security by conducting the highest value property auction in the Cayman Islands to date.

Sophie Holcombe

Sophie Holcombe

Year of Call: 2009
Email: sholcombe@serlecourt.co.uk

Overview

Sophie Holcombe has a commercial chancery practice, with a particular focus on contentious domestic and offshore trusts and civil fraud. Sophie previously acted in the BTA v Ablyazov enforcement proceedings, and in Gudavadze v Anisimov, a claim for over $1.5bn relating to the Russian mining company Metalloinvest. During 2014 and 2015 Sophie was instructed on behalf of trustees in Z Trusts I to VIII [2015] JRC 031; [2015] JRC 196C; and [2015] JRC 214. Sophie is currently instructed in fraud cases concerning investment in Brazilian teak plantations and mismanagement of a major investment portfolio in Switzerland.

Areas of expertise

Civil Fraud

Sophie's recent matters include:

  • ECO Quest Plc v GFI Consultants Ltd: Led by David Casement QC, Sophie acts for Ecoquest, a company that specialises in ethical investments, to recover £2.2 million of losses arising from a fraudulent scheme perpetrated by the Defendants (Mr Bowers and Mr Skeene) which offered investment in Brazilian teak plantations.
  • Acting as junior counsel on behalf of the beneficiaries of two trusts which suffered multi-million dollar losses as a result of fraud perpetrated by a Swiss Bank. Litigation is anticipated and/or ongoing in multiple jurisdictions.
  • Advising the victim of a Ponzi scheme in relation to knowing receipt claims threatened by other victims of the scheme.
  • Led by John Machell QC, Sophie acted as junior counsel for a Norwich Pharmacal respondent in the BTA v Ablyazov enforcement proceedings, including securing the return of the respondent’s passports delivered up pursuant to a passport order preventing the non-party leaving the jurisdiction until compliance with the disclosure order.

In 2012 Sophie assisted Paul Chaisty QC in the lead up to and during trial in Access Bank v Akingbola [2012] EWHC 1124, a fraud and company law claim for the sum of approximately $700 million from the ex-chief executive of the bank. Sophie also provided assistance to leading counsel in Aeroflot v Berezovsky in relation to a jurisdiction challenge.

Previously, Sophie advised in relation to mis-selling claims following liquidation of the investment company, insurance fraud carried out by former company directors, and acted for the wife of a man convicted of fraud against his employer, in the employer’s restitution claim.

Commercial Litigation

Sophie acts in and advises on a wide variety of commercial disputes both with and without leaders.

Sophie’s recent matters include:

  • Grupo Ozarow SA v Clean Energy Trading Ltd [2016] EWHC 2322: led by Stephen Houseman QC and Jonathan Harris QC (Hons) successfully discharged a proprietary injunction granted in support of proceedings in Poland. The injunction had the effect of freezing the business of Clean Energy Trading which trades in European Union Carbon Credits.
  • Kupeli v Sirketi (t/a Cyprus Turkish Airlines) [2016] EWHC 930: led by Jonathan Adkin QC, Sophie acted for a Turkish airline defending claims arising from a failed takeover of the Northern Cyprus national airline. At the end of the Part 1 Trial 95% of the 838 pleaded claims were dismissed. The costs decision is subject to an application for permission to appeal.
  • Gudavadze v Anisimov (2014): instructed as part of a team led by Paul Girolami QC and Jonathan Adkin QC for the Claimants in a claim for over $1.5bn concerning the Russian mining company Metalloinvest.
  • Instructed as sole counsel in a contractual dispute involving allegations of breach of fiduciary duty owed by a legal consultant to a sub-advisor to a specialist third party litigation funder incorporated in the BVI.
  • Acted as junior counsel in a £6.7M breach of warranty and misrepresentation claim arising out of the acquisition of a well known UK water business.
  • Acted as part of team led by Alan Boyle QC in relation to interim proceedings in Charles Lissack v Manhattan Loft Corporation Limited, a claim arising out of the St Pancras development.
  • Appeared on behalf of the third defendant SC DG Petrol SRL v Vitol Broking Ltd [2013] EWHC 3920 to resist relief from sanctions.
  • Assisted David Drake in resisting a challenge to a major financial service provider's standard terms and conditions under the European Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations.

Sophie is regularly instructed in relation to injunctive relief proceedings, including obtaining and resisting search orders, freezing injunctions and Norwich Pharmacal relief, both in the UK and in various offshore jurisdictions. In 2013 she assisted in obtaining Norwich Pharmacal orders in Jersey and Guernsey against banks in support of a breach of trust claim. In 2012 she assisted in an application for free-standing Mareva relief in Bahamian enforcement proceedings, and successfully applied for offshore interpleader relief.

Insolvency

Sophie regularly appears in the High Court on a range of company and insolvency matters.

Sophie has particular experience of advising on claims against directors and shadow directors of companies in liquidation following suspected fraud or breach of duty. She has previously acted on behalf of liquidators in relation to s212 claims against former directors suspected of misappropriating company funds, and on behalf of a former director of a company in liquidation to defend a contribution claim brought by a fellow director arising out of the company’s purchase of its own shares.

Sophie has experience of advising liquidators of companies, LLPs and charities. Recently, Sophie advised liquidators of an LLP in relation to the recovery of overdrawn loan accounts from former members, and the availability of a defence of set-off arising from payments made by the members on behalf of the LLP pursuant to personal guarantees.

At the end of 2012 Sophie worked at Conyers Dill and Pearman, Cayman Islands, for three months, providing insolvency advice in relation to liquidation of hedge funds and resisting an injunction to prevent a debenture holder from enforcing its security by conducting the highest value property auction in the Cayman Islands to date.

Trusts and Probate

Sophie regularly advises and acts on contentious domestic and offshore trust and probate matters, often involving multiple jurisdictions and complex corporate structures. She also has experience of advising charities as to the validity of testimony gifts, including the applicability of the cy près doctrine.

Sophie’s recent matters include:

  • Advising trustees on their duties in circumstances where the settlor had reserved to himself powers in relation to the running of an international group of companies in the oil industry, and bondholders had raised concerns regarding the management of the business.
  • Acting as junior counsel on behalf of the beneficiaries of two trusts which suffered multi-million dollar losses as a result of fraud perpetrated by a Swiss Bank.
  • Advising on a beneficiary’s request for disclosure from trustees under Data Protection legislation following the Court of Appeal’s decision in Dawson-Damer v Taylor Wessing.
  • Advising on proposed variation of restrictive investment powers contained in a Trust Deed.
  • In 2014 and 2015 Sophie was instructed in the Z Trusts I to VIII litigation in Jersey. The litigation involved consideration of the appropriate procedure for winding down a Jersey Trust in circumstances where the net liabilities of the trust exceed its net assets (Z Trusts [2015] JRC 031 and Z Trusts [2015] JRC 214); issues of priority between former and current trustees' liens over trust assets; and the exercise of fiduciary powers (the power to appoint additional trustees) in relation to a trust which has insufficient assets to meet its liabilities (Z Trusts [2015] JRC 196C).
  • Led by Richard Harrison QC, Sophie acted as junior counsel for a Jersey trust in English matrimonial proceedings regarding London situated property, and advised on the associated Beddoe application.
  • Led by Giles Richardson, Sophie advised Belize trustees on potential enforcement of orders in French succession proceedings over assets situated in London owned by a trust governed by Jersey law.
  • A variety of breach of trust claims, including Volaw Trustee Limited v Trustcorp (Jersey) Limited [2013] JRC 028.
  • Successfully striking out a probate counterclaim in a dispute regarding a conflict between an English and Sri-Lankan will.
  • Acting as junior counsel in a probate dispute, involving issues of res judicata following referral of disputes between various family members to Beth Din arbitration.

Offshore

Sophie is regularly instructed in offshore trust disputes, including advising on: Beddoe applications; the enforceability of foreign judgments against trust assets; and submission to the foreign court’s jurisdiction. 

Since 2016 Sophie has acted as junior counsel, advising beneficiaries of two trusts which suffered multi-million dollar losses as a result of fraud perpetrated by a Swiss Bank. Litigation is anticipated and/or ongoing in various jurisdictions.

In 2014 to 2015 Sophie was instructed in the Z Trusts I to VIII litigation in Jersey. The litigation involves consideration of the appropriate procedure for winding down a Jersey Trust in circumstances where the net liabilities of the trust exceed its net assets (Z Trusts [2015] JRC 031 and Z Tursts [2015] JRC 214); issues of priority between former and current trustees' liens over trust assets; and the proper exercise of fiduciary powers, namely the power to appoint additional trustees (Z Trusts [2015] JRC 196C).

In 2015, led by Giles Richardson, Sophie advised Belize trustees on potential enforcement of orders in French succession proceedings over assets situated in London owned by a trust governed by Jersey law in advance of Beddoe application in Jersey.

In 2014 led by Richard Harrison QC, Sophie acted as junior counsel for a Jersey trust in English matrimonial proceedings regarding London situated property, and advised on the associated Beddoe application.

Sophie has a number of ongoing matters in the Bahamas and regularly acts as junior counsel in domestic litigation involving cross jurisdictional elements, including the BTA v Ablyazov enforcement proceedings, and Gudavadze v Anisimov, a $1.5 billion dispute between former oligarchs relating to the Russian mining company Metalloinvest, involving questions of Russian and Georgian law.

Sophie was previously seconded for three months to Conyers Dill and Pearman, Cayman Islands, providing insolvency advice in relation to liquidation of hedge funds and resisting an injunction to prevent a debenture holder from enforcing its security by conducting the highest value property auction in the Cayman Islands to date.

Qualifications

LLB in Law - Cardiff University (First Class Honours)
BVC - Cardiff Law School (Outstanding)

Memberships

Commercial Bar Association
Chancery Bar Association
AIPPI

Publications

PLC Variation of Trusts  
PLC Charity litigation: role of the Attorney General


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