Win­ters failed to tell truth in court

Ex-JNF chief loses claim against lawyers

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page - BY SI­MON ROCKER

SI­MON WIN­TERS, the for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of JNF UK, was this week cas­ti­gated by a High Court judge for fail­ing to tell the truth in a failed le­gal action he brought against lead­ing lawyers Mish­con de Reya.

Mr Win­ters, who left the char­ity he had headed since 1996 this sum­mer, had sought an in­junc­tion to stop Mish­con act­ing for JNF in a dis­pute over the ter­mi­na­tion of his em­ploy­ment, claim­ing that there was a con­flict of in­ter­est be­cause the lawyers had pre­vi­ously acted per­son­ally for him.

But in a dev­as­tat­ing judg­ment de­liv­ered on Wed­nes­day af­ter a three-day hear­ing last month, Mr Jus­tice Hen­der­son found for the lawyers and or­dered Mr Win­ters to pay around £100,000, rep­re­sent­ing 70 per cent of Mish­con’s costs, within two weeks.

The judge ex­pressed re­gret that he found Mr Win­ters’s writ­ten and oral ev­i­dence to be “highly un­sat­is­fac­tory in a num­ber of re­spects”.

The ex-JNF chief ex­ec­u­tive made as­ser­tions which were “of­ten im­pre­cise, par­tial or ex­ag­ger­ated, and some­times demon­stra­bly false”, Mr Jus­tice Hen­der­son wrote. “There were times in cross-ex­am­i­na­tion when he seemed to shift his ground as each new point was put to him, and on at least two oc­ca­sions I found his ev­i­dence sim­ply in­cred­i­ble.”

Out­lin­ing the back­ground to the case, the judge ex­plained that Mish­con had rep­re­sented JNF since Oc­to­ber 2005 in its dis­pute with the Is­rael­based Keren Kayemeth Le’Is­rael. The two or­gan­i­sa­tions had run up le­gal fees of £4 mil­lion be­fore reach­ing a draft set­tle­ment in Fe­bru­ary this year. This gave KKL a ma­jor­ity of rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the JNF board with new chair­man Sa­muel Hayek in charge.

On June 25 this year, Mr Win­ters’s solic­i­tors, Ge­orge Davies, wrote to the then pres­i­dent of the JNF, Gail Seal, say­ing that the chief ex­ec­u­tive’s po­si­tion had been un­der­mined by changes to the man­age­ment struc­ture.

But two days later, a let­ter came back from Mish­con, deny­ing that the JNF were in breach of con­tract and in­form­ing Mr Win­ters that he had been sus­pended.

The sus­pen­sion was to en­able the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of “var­i­ous al­le­ga­tions of fi­nan­cial mis­con­duct” made against Mr Win­ters, as well as two other mat­ters: the es­tab­lish­ment of an Is­raeli char­ity, Nes Eretz Is­rael, and the bug­ging of Mr Hayek’s JNF of­fice, the judge wrote.

Mish­con had warned that the JNF “be­lieves that the al­le­ga­tions are so se­ri­ous that sub­ject to the find­ings of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, one po­ten­tial out­come of the dis­ci­plinary hear­ing will be dis­missal”.

But in July, Mr Win­ters started pro­ceed­ings to stop Mish­con act­ing for the char­ity, claim­ing that the lawyers had con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion he had given to them.

Mr Jus­tice Hen­der­son found that the lawyers had acted per­son­ally for Mr Win­ters for “two brief pe­ri­ods only” but in cir­cum­stances closely linked to their work for the char­ity. Mr Win­ters had failed to per­suade him that “Mish­con breached the rules in any rel­e­vant re­spect”.

In one episode, Mr Win­ters had con­sulted An­thony Julius of Mish­con over a let­ter two years ago when he threat­ened to sue the mem­bers of the then Glasgow JNF com­mit­tee for defama­tion.

The let­ter con­cerned al­le­ga­tions made in a dossier com­piled by a num­ber of JNF staff which, ac­cord­ing to the judge, were “con­cerned with Mr

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