Court grants a worldwide freezing order against “persons unknown” in connection with an alleged fraud

Jonathan Scrine

A company applied for a worldwide freezing order against “persons unknown”.

The application related to an alleged fraud which had been committed by unknown persons infiltrating the email account of one of the company’s senior management.
Those persons then impersonated the senior manager to send payment instructions to other staff. As a result, a number of very large payments were sent out from the company’s bank account, at Bank of China in London, to various other banks around the world.

The key issue for the Court was whether it could permit a claim to be made (and a freezing injunction granted) against “persons unknown” in a fraud context.

The case of Bloomsbury Publishing Group Plc v News Group Newspapers Ltd (Continuation of Injunction) [2003] EWHC 1205 (Ch), [2003] 1 W.L.R. 1633 was authority for an interlocutory injunction being granted against persons unknown. There was a good arguable case for saying that that principle should extend to a freezing injunction.

The Court recognised that the first object was to notify the banks of the freezing injunction so that they could freeze the relevant bank accounts, and then, secondly, to obtain information from the various banks which might assist in positively identifying some or all of the defendants.

The claim form made reference to those who had been involved in the activities said to have constituted the fraud, and by reference to particular transfers from the Bank of China accounts to other bank accounts. The other category of defendants were the legal or beneficial holders of those accounts. That made it sufficiently clear to anyone affected by the claim, whether they fell within the category of defendant or not.

CMOC v Persons Unknown [2017] EWHC 3599 (Comm)

Post By Jonathan Scrine (6 Posts)

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