Niall Hearty of financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli reviews the case.

The High Court in London has upheld the Serious Fraud Office's (SFO's) long-running claim to the assets of convicted fraudster Gerald Smith.

The court ruled that the SFO can recover tens of millions of pounds from Smith, the British businessman who was jailed for eight years in 2006 for stealing £35 million from the software company, Izodia. The SFO had been pursuing Smith's assets for 15 years.

Smith had been convicted after moving funds from Izodia into his investment business. The year after his conviction, he was ordered to repay £41 million which, at the time, was the largest confiscation order in criminal proceedings. With interest, the total amount he now owes has been calculated by the SFO to be £72 million.

The SFO was one of several parties to the claim, alongside beneficiaries of a 2016 settlement in a legal battle between Smith and his former business partner, Andy Ruhan. The trial was held to determine the competing claims.

Mr Justice Foxton said that neither Smith nor Ruhan were straightforward in their business dealings that prompted the litigation, leading to a "dispute of labyrinthine complexity''. One major issue was whether Ruhan entered into a bogus settlement in Geneva in 2016 with another businessman to disguise the division of stolen assets. 

The SFO was attempting to realise the assets as the proceeds of crime. It has said it will now continue to pursue enforcement action against Smith.

The SFO can view the outcome of this case as an impressive, hard won victory; not least because there were many competing interests laying claim to Smith's assets.

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