COVID-19: Distinguishing crime
The Judge in the recent case of Leni Gas and Oil Investments Ltd and another v Malta Oil Pty Ltd and another  EWHC 893 examined the legal principles applicable to the tort of deceit.
The term civil or commercial fraud has a broad scope and generally means a fraudulent misrepresentation, which is a claim under the Misrepresentation Act 1967, or the common law tort of deceit.
Deceit is a tort (a wrong) arising out of a false statement of fact made by one person/entity, knowingly or recklessly, with the intention that it should be acted upon by another person/entity, who suffers damage as a result.
It is difficult to bring a claim in deceit, as the claimant must show that the defendant has made:
A representation which is false and dishonestly made and intended to be and is relied on and the claimant suffers damage as a result.
In the case of Leni Gas and Oil Investments Ltd and another v Malta Oil Pty Ltd and another, it was contended that the deceit had occurred during a telephone conversation between the CEOs of the first claimant and first defendant, with the CEO of the first defendant making fraudulent representations on which the first claimant had relied. As the alleged representations were made during a telephone conversation the claim hinged on oral evidence given by the parties’ witnesses – 3 in total. The Judge found in favour of the defendants, preferring the evidence of their witnesses.
The Judge found that:
This case shows the difficulties of bringing a claim for deceit/fraudulent misrepresentation, particularly one which relies on oral evidence.
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