Brillante Virtuoso – an extraordinary attempt at maritime insurance fraud
The High Court has today handed down its highly-anticipated judgment in the case of the Brillante Virtuoso – an extraordinary attempt at maritime insurance fraud.
The alleged attack on the Brillante Virtuoso – some 10-12 miles off Aden on the night of 5-6 July 2011 – was no pirate attack. The original account was that in an attack by Somali pirates, the vessel had been hit by RPG and caught fire. War risks underwriters were suspicious from the start.
The legal dispute which followed owners’ and their mortgagee bank’s claim against underwriters has been ongoing since 2012. Underwriters denied the claim, alleging that the loss had been caused by the wilful misconduct of the owner within Section 55(2)(a), Marine Insurance Act 1906. Since mid-2016 the claim has been pursued by the mortgagee bank alone, both as a co-assured under the war risks policy in its own right and as assignee of owners’ claim. The bank claimed that an attack on the vessel by the owner was an attack on the bank’s proprietary interest in the vessel as mortgagee.
On 7 October 2019 the High Court handed-down judgment following a trial which lasted some 52 days. The court has found that the vessel’s beneficial owner, Mr Iliopoulos, was the “instigator of the conspiracy” to destroy the vessel in order to commit insurance fraud. In these circumstances the bank failed to establish a loss by insured peril under the war risks policy. The claim failed.