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Accused ship owner appeals $85mn fraud allegation

A ship owner has appealed a court decision that allowed 10 Lloyd's insurers to allege that it deliberately scuttled its own ship.

The accusations first came to light in an ongoing civil case being heard in London's Commercial Court after the ship's owner, Suez Fortune Investments, sued the insurers when they refused to pay out on a policy.

The claim relates to the 2011 loss of the Brillante Virtuoso, which was destroyed after an alleged pirate attack.

In an earlier trial, which concluded in January, the court found that the alleged attack had rendered the ship a total constructive loss, putting the value of the claim at $85mn.

The decision led to a second trial, which is still ongoing, where the insurers are accusing the ship owner of destroying its own ship in what was described as a "massive" fraud.

The insurers, led by Talbot, were given permission to plead the fraud charges in an application hearing on 1 May this year.

But now the ship owner has taken its battle to the Court of Appeal in a bid to block the insurers from bringing the allegation.

The revelation came in a Commercial Court hearing on Thursday (23 July). It is not yet known whether the upper court will permit the appeal.

Last week, The Insurance Insider reported that City of London Police had launched a criminal investigation into Suez Fortune Investments following the fraud allegations.

The loss has been linked to the murder of a British loss adjuster, Captain David Mockett, who was commissioned to investigate. On 20 July 2011, shortly after filing a report into the claim, he was murdered in Aden in a car bomb attack.

Validus' Lloyd's insurer Talbot led the war risks policy, which was placed by BMS. Hiscox, QBE, Chaucer, Markel, Catlin, Brit and Novae were also on the slip and are listed as defendants in the case.

Earlier filings also listed Travelers and Marketform, but they have been replaced by Aprilgrange and GAI Indemnity in more recent filings.

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