Alleged judicial links to collapsed hedge fund force top judge to act. SCOTLAND’S top judge Lord Brian Gill – who has waged a bitter two year battle with the Scottish Parliament over proposals to create a register of judicial interests – has been forced to suspend a judicial colleague after allegations surfaced in a writ concerning links between a serving sheriff and his former law firm to individuals under investigation in connection with the collapse of Heather Capital - a multi million pound hedge fund.
Lord Gill (73) suspended Sheriff Peter Black Watson (61) after demanding sight of a multi million pound writ against Glasgow law firm Levy & Mcrae – where Watson was formerly a partner.
It has been reported Watson offered to step aside temporarily – while the litigation concluded - however a Judicial Office spokesperson said “The Lord President concluded that in the circumstances a voluntary de-rostering was not appropriate and that suspension was necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the judiciary.”
Watson’s former law firm - Levy & McRae, is one of several companies being sued by Heather's liquidator, Ernst & Young, after the fund's collapse in 2010. Watson was a director of a company called Mathon Ltd - a key part of the Heather empire.
The collapsed hedge fund Heather Capital – run by lawyer Gregory King is now the subject of a Police Scotland investigation and reports to the Crown Office. Gregory King – a lawyer - is named along with three others – lawyer Andrew Sobolewski, accountant Andrew Millar and property expert Scott Carmichael in a police report.
A statement from the Judicial Office for Scotland issued last week confirms: Sheriff Peter Watson was suspended from the office of part-time sheriff on 16 February 2015, in terms of section 34 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.
“On Friday 13 February the Judicial Office was made aware of the existence of a summons containing certain allegations against a number of individuals including part-time sheriff Peter Watson.
The Lord President’s Private Office immediately contacted Mr Watson and he offered not to sit as a part-time sheriff on a voluntary basis, pending the outcome of those proceedings.
Mr Watson e-mailed a copy of the summons to the Lord President’s Private Office on Saturday 14 February.
On Monday 16 February the Lord President considered the matter.
Having been shown the summons, the Lord President concluded that in the circumstances a voluntary de-rostering was not appropriate and that suspension was necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the judiciary.
Mr Watson was therefore duly suspended from office on Monday 16 February 2015.”
At the Court of Session yesterday (Thursday) judge Lord Woolman heard more details of the summons mentioned by the Judicial Office in their statement relating to the suspension of Sheriff Watson – who was formerly a partner at the Glasgow based law firm of Levy and Mcrae – who are now being sued for £28 million over allegations relating to their involvement in the downfall of Heather Capital.
In CA207/14 Paul Duffy v Levy & McRae &c Shepherd & Wedderburn (Pursuers) Simpson & Marwick (Defenders) - Former Dean of the Faculty of Advocates - Richard Keen QC - who is representing Paul Duffy of Isle of Man based liquidators Ernst & Young - told the court the action proceeded on the basis of "breach of fiduciary duty and dishonest assistance". Keen alleged there had been "a fraud" on Heather Capital. Further details were reported by the Herald newspaper here
The Scottish Sun previously reported on a dossier handed to prosecutors which focussed on Glasgow-based Mathon Ltd. Mathon was linked to the failed £400m Heather Capital hedge fund run by King.
The Gibraltar-based investment scheme was launched in 2004 and some of the cash was loaned by Mathon to bankroll developments across Scotland. But many of the Mathon-funded plans did not happen — and some of the cash was never repaid.
Reports in the Scottish Sun revealed liquidator Paul Duffy, of Ernst & Young, has been battling to recover investors' money since being appointed in 2010. They filed a £100million writ in an Isle of Man court against accountancy giants KPMG - who were Heather's auditors.
In court papers, they claim that the developments were a "fabrication and a sham". And a judge has said it is likely that "fraudulent conduct exists”.
While the Judicial Office have so far refused to give further comment at this time on the allegations linking judges to court litigation involving collapsed hedge funds - the details surrounding directorships of members of Scotland’s judiciary should now be brought to the attention of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee - who are currently considering proposals to create a full register of judicial interests as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary.
The move to bring transparency to judges wealth, links to business & other interests comes after it emerged members of the judiciary have a significant proportion of their undeclared riches in offshore tax havens, arms length trusts, shareholdings in vested interests, energy firms, land ownership, companies linked to public contracts - some within the justice system itself, companies involved in organised crime and secretive links to big business, finance & banking.
Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland's Judiciary