Professional practice

Sophia has a broad commercial and chancery practice, encompassing a range of commercial litigation, fraud and asset recovery, banking and financial services, company, insolvency, and contentious trusts litigation.

Much of Sophia’s work has an international dimension; she is called to the bar in BVI and registered in DIFC and has a substantial practice before the courts of offshore jurisdictions and arbitral tribunals. She frequently advises on issues of jurisdiction and enforcement raised in cross-border disputes.

Sophia’s current and recent work includes acting in a complex cross-border banking fraud, and as part of the claimant team in Toucan Energy Holdings Ltd & Anr v Wirsol Energy Ltd & Ors [2021] EWHC 895 (Comm), a substantial Commercial Court dispute in the renewable energy sector.

Sophia is a contributing author to Gough on Company Charges and has delivered seminars and appeared on panels on a variety of topics, including at the ICC FraudNet 33rd conference, and the Private Client Global Elite Rising Leaders’ Forum 2021.

 

Arbitration & related court applications

Sophia also accepts instructions to act in arbitrations and is familiar with the major sets of arbitration rules. She recently appeared as sole counsel in a substantial challenge to the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal in a Singapore-seated LCIA arbitration relating to a property joint venture.

Sophia has previously been instructed in substantial UNCITRAL arbitration in the energy and natural resources sector and has advised on enforcement matters arising out of an ICSID arbitration award. She also has experience of obtaining injunctions in the High Court under section 9 of the Arbitration Act 1966 to stay proceedings issued in breach of an arbitration agreement.

Banking & financial services

Sophia is currently instructed by the Middle East branch of a major bank in an arbitration relating to failed settlements under the 2002 ISDA Master Agreement and associated guarantees, and a substantial mis-selling claim in the DIFC in relation to oil-derivative products. She has advised and delivered talks on the legal and regulatory aspects of cryptocurrencies, in which she has a particular interest.

Notable cases include:

First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC v. Larmag Holdings NV [2019] DIFC CFI 030; [2019] DIFC CA 010: Led by Rupert Reed QC at first instance and on appeal for First Abu Dhabi Bank, this was a significant case in confirming the DIFC’s jurisdiction over onshore banks (against whom Bankers Trust relief was sought) on the basis that they were recognised members of the DIFC regulator, the DFSA, for the sole purpose of trading on NASDAQ Dubai.

Advised a debt collection services provider on defending a multi-million claim for alleged breaches of a management agreement, by which a Manx bank had outsourced the administration of block discounting agreements and asset finance agreements.

Assisted with the independent third party review of RBS GRG complaints, chaired by Sir William Blackburne.

Instructed, with Philip Marshall QC and Ruth den Besten, by the administrators of Lehman Brothers Limited in the Lehman Brothers administration Waterfall III proceedings.

Prior to coming to the Bar, Sophia worked on the Law Commission’s Consumer Rights Act 2015 and Bills of Sale projects, involving extensive research in the fields of consumer credit and secured finance. She is a member of the Secured Transactions Law Reform Project, writes for Butterworths’ Journal of International Banking and Financial Law and is contributing to the forthcoming edition of Gough on Company Charges.

Civil fraud & asset recovery

Frontier Estates Ltd v Ford & ors: Acting for certain respondents to freezing and imaging/search orders in a claim against an ex-senior employee for alleged diversion of business opportunities to a new competitor business in the property development sector.

Renova Industries Ltd & ors v Emmerson International Corporation & ors BVIHCOM 2013/160: appeared (while on secondment at Agon Litigation) in the BVI Commercial Court for various respondents to asset disclosure and worldwide freezing orders in the context of a joint venture dispute said to be worth c.$1 billion.

BFS Group v Foley & ors [2017] EWHC 2799 (QB): led by Lance Ashworth QC, Sophia acted for defendant suppliers to the claimant logistics group in claims alleging bribery, dishonest assistance and fraudulent misrepresentation. They were successful in defeating the summary judgment application on part of the claim.

Avonwick & ors v Castle & ors: led by Philip Marshall QC and James Mather, Sophia acted for a defendant in an unlawful means conspiracy claim for damages of US$170m in relation to a settlement alleged to constitute a transaction defrauding creditors.

Sole counsel for a UK plc at a fast-track trial, successfully defending allegations of fraud and breach of contract.

Commercial chancery disputes

Sophia has substantial experience in chancery litigation and commercial disputes with a cross-over element, including shareholder and joint venture disputes, director/fiduciary duties, fraud and trusts.

Wilton Trustees (IOM) Ltd & anr v AFS Trustee Ltd & Ors BVIHC (COM) 2018/154: Led by Dakis Hagen QC, Sophia acts for a defendant investment company and 50% joint venturer, FIHAG,  in proceedings relating to a BVI trust which holds a valuable UK property portfolio via the joint venture company. The claimants deny the existence of the joint venture and make wide-ranging allegations that the defendants conspired to defraud them of their shareholding in the joint venture company, and for sham and/or fraudulent misrepresentation in relation to a £25 million loan advanced by FiHAG.

Frontier Estates Ltd v Ford & ors: Acting for certain respondents to freezing and imaging/search orders in a claim against an ex-senior employee for alleged diversion of business opportunities to a new competitor business in the property development sector.

Buchanan v Wischhusen & B-Pak 360 Limited: Acted for a minority shareholder and joint venture partner, in an unfair prejudice petition with associated freezing relief in relation to the wrongful attempts of a company’s director to divert the joint venture business and “ferret away” funds.

Commercial dispute resolution

Sophia has experience acting unled in the Commercial Court and Chancery Division at trial, as well as on a range of interlocutory matters, including applications for injunctive relief.

Notable cases include:

Toucan Energy Holdings Ltd & Anr v Wirsol Energy Ltd & Ors: acted (led out of Chambers) for the Claimants in a substantial Commercial Court dispute relating to the financing, construction and sale of 19 solar parks in the UK.

Weaver & ors v British Airways Plc [2021] EWHC 217 (QB) Sophia cted (with David Blayney QC and Sophie Holcombe) for claimants in a group action against British Airways following the theft of customers’ personal data from BA’s website and mobile app in 2018. Thought to be the largest ever data breach group action in the English courts, the claim settled on confidential terms.

Yukos Finance B.V. & ors v Stephen Lynch & Ors: acted, led by Jonathan Adkin QC, for a defendant to claims arising out of the bankruptcy of the Russian oil company OAO Yukos Oil. The case was named as one of The Lawyer’s Top 20 Cases of 2019.

Instructed as sole counsel in substantial claims for breach of a shareholders’ agreement in relation to a joint venture in the digital entertainment sector.

Company law

Sophia regularly advises and acts in disputes involving a company law aspect, including shareholder claims, disputes relating to directors’ duties and issues of corporate capacity.

Acted, led by Jonathan Adkin QC, for a minority shareholder in relation to an unfair prejudice petition and related employment proceedings including allegations of quasi-partnership.

Buchanan v Wischhusen & B-Pak 360 Limited: Acted for a minority shareholder and joint venture partner, in an unfair prejudice petition with associated freezing relief in relation to the wrongful attempts of a company’s director to divert the joint venture business and “ferret away” funds.

Awan v Patel [2017] EWHC 1951 (Ch): led by Thomas Elias, Sophia acted for the successful defendants in a trial in the Chancery Division in a matter involving allegations that a business opportunity was wrongfully diverted from the partnership and issues as to the shareholdings and appointment of directors in the joint venture company.

Sophia is familiar with applications to restore companies to the register, for rectification of the register and to register company charges out of time. She also has experience advising on the BVI Business Companies Act 2004.

Conflict of laws & private international law

Sophia has a particular interest in private international law and regularly advises on issues of jurisdiction and choice of law. Recent instructions include:

IPCom GmbH & Co KG v Vodafone Group Plc [2019] EWHC 1255 (Pat): Acted, led by Prof. Jonathan Harris QC, in a jurisdiction challenge made under Article 30 of the Brussels Recast Regulation in a telecommunications intellectual property dispute.

Advising a BVI estate administrator on jurisdiction issues arising in the context of claims made against a very substantial worldwide estate.      

Sophia also has experience advising HNW and UHNW clients on conflict of laws issues such as domicile and choice of law for wealth and succession planning.

Insolvency

Sophia regularly advises and appears in court on corporate insolvency and bankruptcy matters, both led and unled. She has experience advising on matters relating to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020. She is particularly interested in the cross-section between insolvency and fraud matters.

Notable instructions include:

Sophia recently acted for an individual with a portfolio of secured and unsecured portfolio debt for the development of a commercial site. The Court set aside a substantial statutory demand, applying the (then) Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill 2020 by analogy to a sole trader.

Re ASA Resource Group Plc: Acted, led by Timothy Collingwood QC, Sophia acted for a creditor of ASA, the former African mining group, in an appeal against the rejection of a substantial proof of debt relating to unpaid salary, expenses and damages, where the company denied the creditor’s status as a senior employee.

Acted as sole counsel in the High Court to obtain an injunction restraining the presentation of a winding-up petition on behalf of the UK subsidiary of a NASDAQ-traded company.

Instructed, with Philip Marshall QC, by the administrators of Lehman Brothers Limited in the Lehman Brothers administration Waterfall III proceedings.

Advised a national debt charity pro bono on issues relating to council tax liability orders in personal bankruptcies.

Offshore litigation

Sophia is regularly instructed in commercial, trusts and asset-tracing matters arising in the offshore jurisdictions, with particular experience in BVI, Cayman Islands, Channel Islands, and DIFC.

BVI

Sophia completed a 6-month secondment at Agon Litigation in the British Virgin Islands, and was admitted as a barrister of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (Territory of the Virgin Islands) in October 2018.

Whilst at Agon, she appeared in the BVI Commercial Court and Court of Appeal in Renova Industries Ltd & ors v Emmerson International Corporation & ors, a dispute worth circa US$1 billion between two prominent Russian businessmen and associated parties concerning a joint venture in relation to various power generation and distribution assets in Russia. She also appeared in the Commercial Court in Donna Union Foundation v Koshigi &Ors, where Agon acted for the Receiver appointed alongside worldwide freezing orders to support a London-seated LCIA arbitration.

Wilton Trustees (IOM) Ltd & anr v AFS Trustee Ltd & Ors BVIHC (COM) 2018/154: Led by Dakis Hagen QC, Sophia acts for a defendant investment company and 50% joint venturer, FIHAG,  in proceedings relating to a BVI trust which holds a valuable UK property portfolio via the joint venture company. The claimants deny the existence of the joint venture and make wide-ranging allegations that the defendants conspired to defraud them of their shareholding in the joint venture company, and for sham and/or fraudulent misrepresentation in relation to a £25 million loan advanced by FiHAG.

DIFC

Sophia is a Part II Registered Practitioner before the DIFC Courts and has particular experience of obtaining and responding to freezing orders and enforcement proceedings in the jurisdiction. Her recent work includes:

First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC v. Larmag Holdings NV [2019] DIFC CFI 030; [2019] DIFC CA 010: Led by Rupert Reed QC at first instance and on appeal for First Abu Dhabi Bank, this was a significant case in confirming the DIFC Court’s jurisdiction over onshore banks on the basis that they were recognised members of the DIFC regulator, the DFSA.

Grand Valley General Trading LLC v. (1) GGICO Sunteck Ltd (2) Sunteck Lifestyles Ltd [2019] DIFC CA 007: Sophia acts with Rupert Reed QC for the Sunteck group in a US $60 million dispute joint venture dispute relating to commercial property around the Burj Khalifa. Sophia acted unled in the DIFC Court of Appeal, dealing with a novel question as to the standing of a non-party venture partner to apply to set aside a default judgment obtained against the deadlocked joint venture company for its dissolution.

Trusts Litigation

Sophia has substantial experience of trusts litigation, particularly in a cross-border context, and has advised in relation to trusts in all the major trusts jurisdictions including England and Wales, Jersey, Guernsey, BVI, Cayman, Bermuda, Cyprus and the Isle of Man.

She has experience acting for Trustees in Beddoe and Public Trustee v Cooper proceedings, as well as for those seeking to challenge trust structures on grounds of fraud or sham.

Recent instructions include acting for a defendant to a joint venture fraud claim brought by trustees of a substantial property portfolio held through a BVI company (Wilton Trustees (IOM) Ltd & anr v AFS Trustee Ltd & Ors BVIHC (COM) 2018/154) and acting for trustees of two substantial BVI trusts in a restructuring process.

Career

Sophia was called to the Bar in England & Wales in 2014, in BVI in October 2018 and registered as an advocate in the DIFC in September 2019.

She is an elected Main Committee member of the Chancery Bar Association, and a member of ComBar, R3 (the Association of Business Recovery Professionals) and ConTrA (the Contentious Trusts Association). Sophia also sits on the Bar Council Regulatory Reform Working Group.

Education

2014: BPTC, University of Law (Outstanding)     

2008-2012: BA (Jurisprudence), Brasenose College, University of Oxford (First class)

2013: BCL, Brasenose College, University of Oxford (Distinction)

2010: Licence droit, Université Paris II Panthéon-Assas (mention)

Publications

Contributing author to Gough on Company Charges (new edition forthcoming) and PLC Corporate law: Questions for Counsel

Book review: Charles Kerrigan, The Financing of Intangible Assets: TMT Finance and Emerging Technologies (2020) 8 JIBFL 572

Big Data, Coronavirus and Cryptocurrencies: The Changing Face of Fraud Legal Week May 2020

Bribery in International Investment Transactions: the bank on the hook? (2019) 34 JIBFL 321

Jury’s out on the SFO/Tesco Fraud Trial (2018) Economia (with P.Marshall QC)

Sham Trusts and Putin’s Banker (2018) 33 JIBFL 6

The Bills of Sale Acts: Ripe for Reform? (2013) 11 JIBFL 685 (with Professor Louise Gullifer QC (Hon))