On 2 August 2021, Businessman Elie Taktouk was unanimously convicted of 11 counts of fraud and dishonesty offences relating to a failed property redevelopment in Knightsbridge following a four-week trial at Southwark Crown Court (reported in the Daily Mail on 3 August 2021) This was a private prosecution brought by investors Mr. Adrien Noel (a real estate developer in France) and his father Mr. Frank Noel (chairman and founding partner of the Chestone Group), who were defrauded of £2.5 million. The Noels were introduced to Mr Taktouk through a close friend of Adrien’s. The Noels then agreed to invest in the redevelopment on understanding Mr Taktouk’s father, Mr Youssef Taktouk, and Adrien’s friend would also invest. Mr Taktouk leveraged his reputation as a wealthy property tycoon to con the Noels into investing large sums through a series of calculated lies about the true state of the redevelopment.
In 2015, Mr Taktouk reported to the Noels that he had made significant advances in re-developing the property. Mr Taktouk made a series of requests to the Noels totalling £2.5 million, in each case representing to the Noels that the funds would be used for specific aspects of the redevelopment such as the installation of a kitchen, a high-grade sound system and high-quality wood flooring. Quotes for the work were produced to support the request for funds. Suppliers then never heard from Mr Taktouk again. Mr Taktouk also made requests to the Noels for loan financing for the property, namely that advanced interest and a deposit was due to the National Bank of Abu Dhabi.
An investigation led by the solicitors instructed (Edmonds Marshall McMahon) revealed a vastly different picture to that represented by Mr Taktouk to the Noels; a mortgage was not taken out with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi for the purchase and the Noels’ funds were not paid to the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, suppliers did not undertake the work and the property was left in a shell-like state. A mortgage was eventually taken out with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi but Mr Taktouk did not comply with the terms of the mortgage and the property was ultimately seized by the National Bank of Abu Dhabi and sold at auction.
Instead, Mr Taktouk kept the Noels’ funds for himself, living a life of extravagance at the expense of the Noels. This life of luxury included using the Noels’ funds for expensive private school fees for his children, the purchase of a Porsche, paying rent at a luxury property in Kensington (exceeding £21,000 per month) and shopping sprees at Harrods totalling thousands of pounds. Mr Taktouk also used the Noels’ funds to cover legal fees from his widely publicised divorce from Daniella Semaan, who went on to marry former Chelsea football player Cesc Fabregas. Renowned in the British, Lebanese and Nigerian communities, Elie Taktouk boasted about his property development expertise and a number of high value business interests in Nigeria and Lebanon in the transport, flour mill, insurance and property investment industries but he failed to pay his own bills.
Mr Taktouk is due to be sentenced on 21 September 2021.
Our client, Mr. Adrien Noel said: “We are pleased with this result as we feel that justice has now been served. This was a point of principle for my father, Frank Noel, and I. We were extremely pleased by the level of service, dedication and skill provided by Edmonds Marshall McMahon. Kate, Jane and Mai were exceptional throughout and conducted both the skilled investigation and the complex prosecution exceedingly well.”
This case is significant because it illustrates a growing trend for private prosecutions to be brought by individuals, corporates and charities as state prosecutors continue to suffer from a lack of resources to investigate and prosecute complex fraud. Edmonds Marshall McMahon is the UK’s leading private prosecution firm. It specialises in complex and high value fraud cases. This team was led by Kate McMahon (Partner), Jane Guthrie (Senior Associate) and Mai Holdom (Associate) with assistance from Andrew Marshall (Partner) and Alex Young (paralegal). Our thanks extends to our Counsel Team: Richard Whittam QC (Matrix Chambers) and Henry Hughes (187 Fleet Street) and Rebecca Chalkley (18 Red Lion Court)