Lawyers of ex-billionaire Willem Blijdorp sent private detectives after another lawyer. Private detectives had to observe a former resident lawyer of Blijdorp and his company B&S. Blijdorp lawyers also seized all information in the office of the former house lawyer.
Zuidas law firm Stibbe has hired private detectives for the very wealthy entrepreneur Willem Blijdorp to observe another lawyer. The lawyer shadowed on behalf of Stibbe is the Rotterdam lawyer Jan Jaap Schelling. Blijdorp has also seized its entire administration.
In December last year, Schelling reported 'harassment' and 'house trespassing' to the police by investigators hired by Stibbe, who work at the Katwijk investigation agency 2Solve Investigations. Being surreptitiously spied on by private investigators employed by another law firm is, according to Schelling, a serious infringement of his rights as a lawyer and an infringement of the rights of clients who visit his office.
Schelling was Blijdorp's house lawyer for a long time. On his behalf and on behalf of the stock exchange fund B&S BSGR€5.05--, the lawyer acted in major legal conflicts with, among others, the French wine trader Escale Grand Vins, beverage producer Jack Daniel's and cosmetics trader Metco. Blijdorp has a majority interest in B&S, a wholesaler of drinks, food and cosmetics. The company supplies airport shops, discount chains such as Action and the US military, among others.
Interim proceedings between Blijdorp and Schelling in which the Amsterdam court ruled on Tuesday show that Stibbe lawyer Tim de Greve also seized all administration of Schelling's law firm on behalf of Blijdorp on 30 November last year. Blijdorp wants to look for evidence that a business partner of his bribed Schelling. The use of private detectives was also supposed to help find such information.
During the seizure, the Stibbe lawyer literally demanded 'everything' of information from Schelling's law firm Cicero Legal Strategy and his private company. Bailiffs, assisted by police officers, requested all information carriers from Schelling for a day in the presence of the Dean of the Rotterdam Bar Association. Because Schelling keeps an office at home, he says that there was also a lot of private information, such as his holiday photos and will.
Schelling had to give the bailiff the passwords of his personal email account and mobile phone. Blijdorp also had the Stibbe lawyer claim all WhatsApp messages, other chat messages and digital data carriers, including information in 'the cloud'. According to De Greve, it was impossible to restrict the requested information because his client does not yet know where to find the information about the alleged bribery of his house lawyer.
Violating privilege – client privacy
In summary proceedings before the Amsterdam court, Schelling demanded the lifting of the attachment and the return of all information. Schelling invokes, among other things, the duty of confidentiality and his legal privilege as a lawyer. The seizure of information would violate that legal privilege.
The protection of lawyers' legal privilege is extremely sensitive. The Netherlands Bar Association always vehemently opposes any possible violation of that privilege. According to the Bar Association, lawyers cannot do their job properly if clients cannot fully trust that what they share with their counsel remains secret from third parties.
Remarkably, Stibbe partner De Greve assists Blijdorp with this attachment. In a fraud case involving Box - at the time, the asset manager of the Royal Family - De Greve accuses the Public Prosecution Service of violating the legal professional privilege of lawyers by viewing documents that are subject to secrecy. De Greve did this last Monday before the court in Den Bosch. De Greve says that both cases, Box and Schelling, are incomparable.
Nine Iranian marble mines
The bribery of which Blijdorp accuses his former house lawyer Schelling is said to have been done by the Iranian-Dutch businessman Danial Mahyari. Blijdorp and Mahyari have been feuding since 2017, after Blijdorp invested €75 million in purchasing nine Iranian marble mines.
Schelling used to be a lawyer for Blijdorp and B&S, but also for Mahyari. He put both businessmen in contact with each other. After their conflict had arisen, Blijdorp and Mahyari requested Schelling to mediate. The ruffs promised in a contract to each pay half to Schelling for his mediation. Blijdorp now accuses Schelling of secretly accepting a promise of €10 million from Mahyari. That amount was never paid.
Fishing for evidence Expedition
The Amsterdam court ruled on Tuesday in summary proceedings between Blijdorp and Schelling that the seizure should be upheld. According to the court, Schelling acted as a mediator in this matter and wrongly invoked his legal privilege as a lawyer. His information is kept in a vault of the specialist company DigiJuris.
But Blijdorp does not get permission from the judge to view the seized information because it seems too much like a 'fishing expedition'. According to the court, Blijdorp has 'made insufficient evidence that he has been disadvantaged by Schelling', although 'questions' can be raised about the payments promised to Schelling.
The court does not discuss the use of private investigators by one lawyer against another. Schelling is 'extremely happy' with the ban by the judge on Blijdorp to read the seized information. Schelling calls the fact that he and his family have been observed by private investigators 'shocking'.
De Greve, on the other hand, states that Schelling's observations were necessary because 'for an effective and efficient seizure of evidence, the person in question must of course, be at home.' Schelling and De Greve point to the possibility of an appeal against the verdict.
The Rotterdam dean of the Bar Association, Peter Hanenberg, confirmed to the FD on Tuesday that he was present at the seizure of information from Schelling.
Hanenberg urged Schelling to resist. Because: 'In general, it is essential that the professional with a statutory right of confidentiality also ensures that this right is safeguarded. For a lawyer, this means that, if necessary, he invokes his right of non-disclosure. After all, information that a lawyer has obtained in the exercise of his profession should, in principle, remain confidential.'
Due to his professional secrecy, Hanenberg does not answer the question of what he thinks of the use of private detectives in this case. B&S, the Dutch Bar Association, and Daniel Mahyari did not answer questions.
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