Princess’s attempt to overturn £2m fine rejected by the Court of Appeal

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Princess Camilla de Bourbon des Deux Siciles faces 12 months in prison if she does not pay the fine – imposed for contempt of court – within three weeks.

She was told that the order for her imprisonment would otherwise take effect after 15 July after she lost her appeal against the fine in Jersey’s Court of Appeal. Previously, the court also rejected an appeal against the contempt finding.

Announcing the court’s decision, Lord Anderson of Ipswich – who was sitting with fellow judges of appeal Jonathan Crow and David Perry – also rejected proposals made on behalf of the Monaco-based socialite that she should be allowed to pay the fine in instalments over a five-year period.

‘We reject the appellant’s claim that there is sufficient evidence before this court to make a determination that she is unable to raise £2 million, or to justify an application for payment in instalments. She has been, after all, on notice since 25 February 2020 that her contempt, if not purged, is likely to result in a fine in the millions; since 22 December 2020 that £2 million was to be paid within two months, on pain of imprisonment; and since our judgment of 15 February 2021 that further latitude is unlikely to be afforded without her submitting a full affidavit of means,’ Lord Anderson said.

The fine was imposed by the Royal Court in December last year after it found that the princess had refused to inform lawyers acting for BNP of the whereabouts of assets held by, or on behalf of, her mother, Edoarda Crociani. The bank is said to have paid out $115 million in reconstituting the trust fund which lies at the heart of the dispute.

Madame Crociani and the bank were jointly ordered to reconstitute the trust in September 2017, and Madame Crociani was ordered to indemnify BNP. However, the Court of Appeal heard that the bank had recovered less than £40,000. The assets include a world-famous painting – Hina Maruru by Paul Gauguin – insured for $66 million.

Advocate Hiram Mistry, on behalf of Princess Camilla, put eight grounds of appeal to the court, including the improper involvement of the presiding Commissioner, the court’s lack of independence because of the previous involvement of one of the Jurats, and the lack of fairness of the proceedings. He also argued that the fine of
£2 million was disproportionate.

Princess Camilla had sworn an affidavit to support efforts to pay the fine off in monthly instalments, a proposal which it was argued had effectively been accepted by the Viscount’s Department when it took possession of a payment, even though it had written to confirm that the approach was ‘not satisfactory’.

Responding to claims that further detailed financial disclosures to the court could result in litigation threatening the princess’s right to property under the European Convention on Human Rights, Lord Anderson noted: ‘If the appellant’s evidence were to the effect that she cannot raise £2 million, it is hard to see that disclosure of that impecuniosity would encourage or assist BNP in its litigation. She is, in any event, not under any compulsion to make disclosure: it is simply that if she declines to do so for reasons of her own, she cannot hope to substantiate an application for permission to pay the fine by instalments. There is no human right to be accorded preferential payment terms without putting forward the evidence that could justify them.’

Dismissing the princess’s appeal, the court extended the period for her fine to be paid until 15 July.

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