Fraudulent breach of trust and the limits of the Limitation Act 1980

Fraudulent breach of trust and the limits of the Limitation Act 1980

A recent Supreme Court decision that the Limitation Act 1980, s 21(1)(a) does not disapply the statutory limitation period for actions against accessories to a fraudulent breach of trust is examined by Emily Campbell, of Wilberforce Chambers.

Original news

Williams v Central Bank of Nigeria [2014] UKSC 10, [2014] All ER (D) 172 (Feb)

The Supreme Court decided that a stranger to a trust who was liable to account on the grounds of dishonest assistance in a breach of trust or knowing receipt of trust assets was not a trustee for the purposes of section 21(1)(a) of the Limitation Act 1980 (LA 1980). The court further decided that an action in respect of any fraud or fraudulent breach of trust to which the trustee was a party or privy did not include an action against a party which was not itself a trustee.

What key issues did the case raise?

The case concerned Dr Williams, who claimed to be the victim of a fraud instigated by the Nigerian state security services in 1986. Dr Williams had paid more than $6m to a solicitor, who he claims paid out the money in breach of trust to an account held by the Central Bank of Nigeria with Midland Bank in London. The central bank was said to have been party to the fraud, with Dr Williams claiming it was a constructive trust

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About the author:
Eleanor qualified in 1998 into the insolvency team at ASB law. She became a partner in 2005, and went on to head up the Recovery & Insolvency team. Whilst traditionally specialising mainly in contentious corporate insolvency matters, in recent years she has moved into the non contentious arena, in particular specialising in company administrations.