High Court finds prominent US businessman committed seriously fraudulent conduct in a multimillion pound fraud and conspiracy claim


Re: Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA) v Farhad Azima [2020] EWHC 1327 (Ch)

The Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA) is the investment authority of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) one of the seven Emirates making up the United Arab Emirates. Mr Azima became involved in various actual and proposed commercial joint ventures with RAKIA and other RAK entities. They included a joint venture between his company HeavyLift International Airlines FZC and RAK Airways for the establishment of a pilot training academy in RAK, the intended sale of a luxury hotel in Georgia owned by one of RAKIA’s subsidiaries and a proposed joint venture involving the provision to RAK of aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services.

Mr Azima and HeavyLift entered into a settlement agreement with RAKIA in respect of claims made by Mr Azima and HeavyLift against RAKIA in connection with the pilot training academy joint venture. Pursuant to the Settlement Agreement RAKIA paid Mr Azima the sum of $2.6 million. RAKIA then advanced three claims against Mr Azima including that Mr Azima fraudulently misrepresented the amount of HeavyLift’s investment in the training academy joint venture and that this misrepresentation induced RAKIA to enter into the Settlement Agreement and pay Mr Azima $2.6 million

The Court held that Mr Azima, a prominent US businessman with many years’ experience in the aviation industry, committed “seriously fraudulent conduct” against RAKIA including bribery, making fraudulent misrepresentations, creating sham documents and participating in an unlawful conspiracy to misappropriate large sums of money from RAKIA. The court ordered Mr Azima to pay damages of more than $4 million. The court also rejected Mr Azima’s allegation that RAKIA was responsible for hacking the documents on which the claim was based.

Edward Craven and Hugh Tomlinson QC were involved in this case.