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England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions


You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions >> Beat v Gopee & Ors [2002] EWCA Civ 219 (8 February 2002)
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Cite as: [2002] EWCA Civ 219

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Neutral Citation Number: [2002] EWCA Civ 219
B2/01/1493, B2 /01/0118, B2/01/0118/A

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF JUDICATURE
COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)
ON APPEAL FROM THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
CHANCERY DIVISION
(Mr Justice Pumphrey and Mr Justice Ferris)

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand
London WC2

Friday, 8th February 2002

B e f o r e :

LORD JUSTICE MUMMERY
____________________

DUNCAN ROBERT BEAT
- v -
DHARAM PRAKASH GOPEE AND OTHERS Applicants
and
ASHIF HUSSAIN
-v-
DHARAM PRAKASH GOPEE AND OTHERS Applicants

____________________

(Computer Aided Transcript of the Stenograph Notes
of Smith Bernal Reporting Limited
190 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2AG
Telephone No: 0207-421 4040
Fax No: 0207-831 8838
Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)

____________________

THE APPLICANTS MR AND MRS GOPEE appeared in Person.)
____________________

HTML VERSION OF JUDGMENT
____________________

Crown Copyright ©

  1. LORD JUSTICE MUMMERY: There are before the court 10 applications, some made by Mr. Gopee, some made by Mrs Gopee, and others made by various companies to which I shall refer. I propose to deal with all these applications together. At the start of the hearing Mr. Gopee asked for an adjournment of some of the applications, submitting that, if they were adjourned, then it would be desirable to adjourn everything else so that they could be heard together. For reasons which I shall explain, I formed the view that it was not necessary to adjourn anything and that it is possible to deal with everything this morning.
  2. There is a huge amount of paper in this case, but the essential facts are really quite simple. Mr. Gopee is described in some of the documents as a professional landlord or consultant. He is married to Mrs Gopee. One of the properties owned by Mr. Gopee in his own name was the matrimonial home at 135, Elmcroft Avenue, Wanstead, London, E11. He bought this property in his own name with the assistance of a mortgage from Citibank Trust in February 1984 for the sum of 45,000. In 1995 or thereabouts Mr. Gopee had litigation with the Sun Alliance London Assurance Company. He lost. He was ordered to pay costs amounting to 26,500. He did not pay them. So he was made bankrupt for non-compliance with the statutory demand in respect of the unpaid costs. He was adjudicated bankrupt on 23rd June 1997, and a Mr. Duncan Beat was in May 1997 appointed trustee in bankruptcy.
  3. There then arose a dispute about the ownership and occupation of 135, Elmcroft Avenue. One of the claims made was that in 1995 Mr. Gopee had transferred 135, Elmcroft Avenue to his wife for 1, on the basis that she would hold it upon a trust for the benefit of the children.
  4. This dispute came before the court. The result was an order made by Mr. Registrar Jacques on 18th June 1999. The order was made on the application of the trustee of Mr. Gopee. Counsel appeared for the trustee and for Mrs Gopee. Mr. Gopee appeared in person. The Registrar ordered that the transfer of 135, Elmcroft Avenue from Mr. Gopee to Mrs Gopee, dated 2nd October 1995, and a contract dated 29th June 1995 completed by such transfer, be set aside as a transaction at undervalue within the meaning of section 339 of the Insolvency Act 1986. He also ordered that the property vest in the trustee, subject to such charges as were registered against the title to the property. He also ordered that Mr. and Mrs Gopee vacate and give possession of the property within 28 days.
  5. Various allegations have been made about the circumstances in which that order was made, including conspiracy, perjury and fraud. There was an appeal against the order. That was heard by Ferris J on 2nd November 1999. He dismissed the appeal, but put a stay upon the order for possession, having regard to the claim to a charge made by a company called Reddy Corporation Limited. It claimed to have a transfer of a mortgage on the property. On 6th December 1999 Pumphrey J removed the stay on the order for possession. He gave a judgment referring to the orders that I have mentioned by the Registrar and by Ferris J. He then said this:
  6. "The reason that Ferris J modified the order was as follows: the original transaction which had been in issue before Mr Registrar Jacques had been a gift of a property at 135 Elmcroft Avenue, London, E11, the bankrupt, Mr Gopee, to his wife on trust, as it would appear from the transfer, for his children. When the matter came before Ferris J in November the first respondent contended for the first time that a company called Marketing Web Limited was the owner of the property, and that Mr Gopee had been granted a tenancy of the property by Marketing Web Limited."
  7. He then refers to the way in which title was claimed to have been made in favour of Marketing Web. That referred to earlier proceedings that there had been between Mr. Gopee and the lender on the security of the property called First National Bank Limited. At about the time of those proceedings, on 29th June 1998, First National's debt owing from Mr. and Mrs Gopee had been discharged by a company called Reddy Corporation Limited, and on payment of the sum of 2,868 the debt owed by Mr. Gopee was assigned to Reddy Corporation Limited and First National Bank's legal charge was transferred to Reddy Corporation Limited.
  8. Pumphrey J then considered the nature of Reddy Corporation Limited, which had two directors. One of them was Mr. Gopee's 11 year old child, another was a 21 year old child. Having referred to further events, Pumphrey J concluded that he was satisfied that the train of transactions described by him, involving Mr. Gopee and his companies, had been entered into with a view only to frustrating the attempt of the trustee in bankruptcy to gather in the assets of the bankrupt with a view to satisfying, to the extent that it was possible, the bankrupt's various creditors. He said that he had listened to everything that Mr. Gopee had said and that he did not accept it. The judge said that he was satisfied that all the companies were agents of Mr. Gopee and being operated as such. Accordingly, he saw no reason why the order which was made by Mr. Registrar Jacques and stayed by Ferris J pending the proceedings should be stayed any longer. So he lifted the stay, which had been imposed on the order for possession. I pause to mention that Mrs Gopee wishes to have permission to appeal against that order.
  9. Further orders were made by Pumphrey J on 4th April 2000. Mr. Gopee wishes to appeal against some of those orders. The order made by Pumphrey J was on the application of the trustee. He heard counsel for the trustee, Mr. Beat, and he heard Mr. and Mrs Gopee in person. The important part of the order made by him was that the charge in favour of Reddy Corporation Limited should be vacated. He dismissed Mrs Gopee's application for an inquiry to establish that she had a beneficial interest in the property at 135, Elmcroft Avenue. He dismissed Mr. Gopee's application to set aside the order of the Registrar of 18th June 1999, indicating that Mr. Gopee had no right to be heard having been adjudicated bankrupt, and he made a Grepe v Loam order. It is principally against that that Mr. Gopee wishes to appeal and therefore applies for permission.
  10. The judge delivered a detailed judgment on 4th April giving the reasons for making those orders on the five applications before him. I need not summarise all of those, save to say that the judge reviewed the evidence in detail and concluded that there was no prospect of Mrs Gopee establishing any beneficial interest at the property or any basis on which Mr. Gopee could set aside the order of Mr. Registrar Jacques. He also dealt with the question of the Grepe v Loam order in this way. He said:
  11. "Mr. Gopee had repeatedly made applications in the present proceedings in relation to matters on which he had no right to be heard."
  12. Reference was made to Ferris J, to a number of applications made to Pumphrey J and to the Court of Appeal in respect of the property. All his applications had failed, including the applications made to Pumphrey J about the Reddy Corporation. Pumphrey J said that he appreciated that it was a serious matter to make a Grepe v Loam order, but pointed out that it did not affect Mr Gopee's right to litigate. It did affect, however, his right to make applications without any control. He said that he was satisfied that sufficient grounds were advanced requiring Mr. Gopee to submit every application he may wish to make before the court before it is served on the other side, so that permission may be given for the application to be served. Mr. Gopee wishes to appeal against that order.
  13. In respect of his application for permission to appeal and for an extension of time in which to appeal, a number of further applications have been issued. First, there is an application dated 30th January 2002, 2001/1083/A. This is an application by Mr. Gopee and a company called Barons Finance Limited to be allowed to join in and participate in the appeal and seek relief to resolve disputes between Mr. Beat, the trustee in bankruptcy. Another application, also issued on 30th January, in 2001/1493/A, similarly seeks permission to join in and participate in that appeal. There is an application dated 2001/1602/A of 30th January 2002, making a similar application by Mr. Gopee and Barons Finance limited to join in seeking leave in that appeal. For completeness, I should mention that there is an application by Mr. Gopee and Barons Finance to join in and seek relief in an application for permission to appeal, 2001/2220/A, which is an application by Mrs Gopee that I shall deal with in a moment.
  14. There is also another bundle of papers in which an application for permission to appeal, dated 6th February 2002, has been issued by Reddy Corporation Limited. It is apparent from that that the orders sought to be appealed are the orders which I have mentioned, of 6th December 1999 and 3rd April 2000. That is referring to the two orders made by Pumphrey J. There is also an application for permission to appeal against an interlocutory order made by Lightman J on 22nd November 1999. There are various grounds set out.
  15. I should turn next to the application by Mrs Gopee for permission to appeal in 2001/2220. I have already indicated that Mr. Gopee and the company, Barons Finance, wish to join in this application. Mrs Gopee needs permission to appeal an order made by Pumphrey J on 2nd October 2001. This is the most recent of the orders which it is sought to appeal. By this order Pumphrey J ordered rectification of the land register for the title number of 135, Elmcroft Avenue. Mrs Gopee had registered a caution against this property on 21st May 2001. The trustee in bankruptcy had sold the property to a Mr. Hussain on 11th December 2000. The basis of Mrs Gopee's registration of a caution was that she made a claim to have the register rectified in relation to her alleged interest in the property. Pumphrey J, for reasons which are set out in his judgment, ordered the vacation of the caution entered on 21st May 2001, holding that she had no relevant interest in the property. In his judgment he set out some of the complex history of the case, going back to the time of Mr. Gopee's bankruptcy, referring to the previous series of orders which he had made on 4th April 2000, including an application by Mrs Gopee for an inquiry as to her beneficial interest in 135, Elmcroft Avenue. For the reasons which he set out, he held that Mrs Gopee had no relevant interest in the property at the time when the cautions were registered and therefore an order for vacating the caution should be made. It appears that Mr. Gopee made submissions at the hearing, including a submission that the transaction with Mr. Hussain was tainted by fraud, giving Mrs Gopee a right to rectify the register under section 82(1)(d) of the Land Registration Act 1925.
  16. Pumphrey J, referring to his earlier judgment of 4th April 2000, said that the conveyancing documents made it clear that 135, Elmcroft Avenue had been transferred to Mr. Gopee alone, and that there had never been any declaration of trust of the property in favour of Mrs Gopee. She had no interest until the purported conveyance to her, which had been set aside by the order of Mr Registrar Jacques and against which order the appeal to Ferris J had failed. So the order vacated the caution. Mrs Gopee wishes to have permission to appeal against that order. In relation to that proposed appeal Mr. Gopee and Barons Finance Limited seek to join in.
  17. Mr. Gopee and Mrs Gopee have made a number of submissions about this complicated web of events. It is submitted that they have not been given a proper chance to contest the proceedings and that there is evidence that the transfer to Mr. Hussain by the trustees is tainted by perjury, conspiracy, and other criminality. The documents also claim other grounds for granting permission to appeal. They include allegations that the earlier decisions of the lower courts failed to comply with the Human Rights Act 1998. Criticisms are made of the way in which Pumphrey J dealt with the claims made by Reddy Corporation Limited.
  18. At the hearing this morning both Mr. and Mrs Gopee have been given an opportunity to expand on the grounds for appeal against the orders of Pumphrey J and Lightman J. They consider that there has not been a fair trial of the disputes between them, the trustee, the various companies and Mr. Hussain, and that their rights under the Human Rights Act have been breached. As part of his submissions, Mr. Gopee emphasised the importance of the various companies which have been mentioned (Web Marketing, Barons Finance and Reddy Corporation) as separate entities from him and that his involvement in those various transactions have not been correctly decided.
  19. In order to decide whether to grant permission to appeal on any of these applications, I have to be satisfied that there is a real prospect of them succeeding. It seems clear to me that there is no real prospect of any of these appeals succeeding. Stripped of all the complications caused by the issued multiple applications, this is a simple case. The orders which are proposed to be appealed are those of Pumphrey J on 6th December 1999, 4th April 2000 and 2nd October 2001. They all relate to the disputes about the ownership of 135, Elmcroft Avenue. Having regard to the material before me, there is no real prospect of successfully establishing that Mrs Gopee or Mr. Gopee, or any of the companies which they have sought to involve in these proceedings, have any prospect of establishing a right or interest in the property. The plain fact is that, according to the documents, Mr. Gopee was the registered proprietor of 135, Elmcroft Avenue, so that, when he was adjudicated bankrupt, it vested in his trustee, Mr. Beat, and the trustee had power to sell the property to Mr. Hussain in order to pay the creditors of Mr. Gopee.
  20. So far as Mrs Gopee is concerned, Mr. Registrar Jacques was entitled, I would hold, to set aside the transfer to her under the provisions of section 339 of the Insolvency Act 1986. The appeal against that decision to Ferris J was unsuccessful. So far as Mr and Mrs Gopee's other attempts to establish a beneficial interest in the property are concerned, I would hold that there is no real prospect of disturbing the conclusion reached by Pumphrey J in his judgments of 4th April 2000 and 2nd October 2001.
  21. I would reach the same conclusion about the claims of the various companies involved in the proceedings, none of which seem on the evidence to be independent of the control of Mr. Gopee or other members of his family. I would agree with the conclusions which Pumphrey J reached in the judgments which he has given regarding the companies.
  22. There is therefore no real prospect of establishing any rights in respect of this property. The fact that so many applications have been issued adds nothing to the simple outline which I have just given. It follows that I refuse all of the applications which are listed before me. That includes the application which has been issued on 30th January 2002 and which I have specifically mentioned. It also includes the application issued on 6th February 2002 in the name of Reddy Corporation Limited. Mr. Gopee addressed me on behalf of that company.
  23. Order: Applications refused.


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