26th Jan 2012
The applicant (L), a Gibraltar company and a beneficiary of a deceased's estate, applied for permission to appeal against an order for disclosure in proceedings by the respondent (S), the deceased's daughter, in respect of monies allegedly removed from her father's estate. L also applied for a stay of the disclosure order pending the appeal. The deceased had died intestate whilst domiciled in Kuwait. His estate included two properties in England. S contended that under Kuwaiti law the estate vested in the deceased's family, and she alleged that two of the defendants had been involved in the sale of the properties for a secret profit, which had been retained by L. S claimed that L was a joint venture vehicle set up for the benefit of the two other defendants with respect to the English property. A master ordered L to disclose details of its beneficial owners. L did not comply. L argued that (1) S had no locus standi to bring proceedings against it because S had no interest in the estate; (2) the request for disclosure had been a fishing expedition, and the master should have postponed disclosure until it became apparent whether S's claims against the other two defendants had merit.
(1) (a) L had admitted allegations in the particulars of claim that S was the deceased's daughter, that S represented her father's other beneficiaries, that the deceased died domiciled in Kuwait, and that under Kuwaiti sharia law his estate became vested in his family at his death. L also had failed to advance a positive case against allegations that the subject property was registered to two Gibraltar companies with title held as nominees for the deceased and shares in the companies held by other nominees for the deceased, and that the beneficial interests in the property and shares formed part of the estate and became vested in the beneficiaries. (b) L had not applied to strike out S's claims on locus standi grounds, and the master could hardly be criticised for failing to consider an issue that was not addressed to him. There was thus no basis for deciding that the master's order was such an abhorrent decision that the court would be justified in setting it aside. (2) There was material in the particulars of claim that raised a prima facie case that L was in some way connected to the other two defendants. There was no reason why disclosure should not have been ordered given that L did not apply to stay proceedings against it until claims against the other two defendants were determined. At a case management conference all parties had agreed that disclosure by lists would be given in the usual way. Whether under the master's order or the order arising from the case management conference the information should have been provided.
A master who made a disclosure order could not be criticised for failing to consider whether the party requesting disclosure had locus standi to bring the proceedings, for recovery of money allegedly removed from a deceased's estate, given that the standing issue was not addressed to the master. In any event, there was a prima facie case and disclosure was appropriate.