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City lawyer could face prison in Ocado espionage case

·2-min read
ocado espionage
ocado espionage

A senior City lawyer who told a client to "burn" chat logs to prevent evidence reaching Ocado could face prison for contempt of court.

Raymond McKeeve, a former partner at Jones Day, was found by a High Court judge to have intentionally destroyed documents to stop data being searched at a company created by Jonathan Faiman, Ocado's co-founder.

A search order had been issued after Ocado accused Mr Faiman's company of stealing corporate intelligence.

While Mr Justice Adam Johnson disregarded the prospect that Mr McKeeve may have been part of a conspiracy, he said the lawyer's actions were a "spontaneous act of colossal stupidity".

Contempt of court can carry a prison sentence, but the potential punishment facing Mr McKeeve will be decided at a future hearing.

Mr McKeeve, a private equity specialist, had been advising Mr Faiman's company, TDP, when it was accused of corporate espionage by Ocado.

Mr McKeeve subsequently instructed an IT technician to "burn all" discussions over private messaging system 3CX.

According to papers filed on behalf of Mr McKeeve, whose wife Belinda de Lucy was elected as a European MP for South East England, he made the "burn all" order to avoid her being drawn into the dispute with Ocado.

Mr McKeeve, 50, told the court that he "panicked" and did not mean for any of the documents to be destroyed.

In the ruling by the judge, Mr Justice Johnson said the regret expressed by Mr McKeeve was "entirely genuine" and that his action had taken a heavy toll on his personal life and career.

"Although I did not regard Mr McKeeve as a deliberately dishonest witness, I do not feel able to accept all the evidence he gave," the judge said.

"His genuine sense of shame and embarrassment, perhaps taken together with the passage of time and the fact (which I accept) that the key events unfolded at high speed, have led to his recollection being distorted."

In a statement, Ocado said: "We felt compelled to bring this solicitor’s conduct to the attention of the court as it was the right thing to do. Ocado has been vindicated in its decision to do so.”

Ocado settled its lawsuit with Mr Faiman and Jon Hilary in June 2021. Mr Faiman had countersued Ocado on the grounds that the claims were false and that a search warrant had not been properly secured. He withdrew the claim last year.

Mr McKeeve has been contacted by The Telegraph for comment.