Sunland vs Angus Reed – the facts.

The purpose of this site is to provide the facts of the case bought 8 Years ago by Sunland Group Ltd ('Sunland'), an Australian listed property company, against Angus Reed, who at the time was an executive with Prudentia Pty Ltd, an Australian property company.

In August 2009 Sunland Group launched twin civil suits in Australia and Dubai against Angus Reed, Prudentia, and Nakheel employees Matthew Joyce and Marcus Lee. Sunland lost the right to pursue action in Dubai after being resoundingly defeated on appeal in the Victorian Supreme Court. All parties were acquitted of all charges. However all parties suffered considerable financial and reputational damage as a result of Sunland’s malicious and unfounded legal suits. Today Matthew Joyce and Marcus Lee are living back in Australia and Angus Reed is living and working in New York. Curiously Reed, Joyce and Lee have incurred continual malicious interference to their personal websites and online profiles since 2009 to this day.


Justice Croft ordered Sunland to pay the defendant’s costs on an indemnity basis because they had commenced the proceeding in willful disregard of known facts and law and also for an ulterior purpose.


On 8 June 2012 Justice Croft handed down judgment in a proceeding commenced by Sunland in August 2009 against Prudentia Investments Pty Ltd, Hanley Investments Pte Ltd (a Singapore based subsidiary of Prudentia), Angus Reed and Matthew Joyce.

Sunland claimed in the proceeding that the defendants made misleading statements to it in 2007 about the status of land in Dubai Waterfront known as D17 and through those statements induced Sunland to enter into a consultancy agreement with Hanley. Under the consultancy agreement Sunland paid Hanley AED 44 million as a ‘walk away’ fee, leaving Sunland free to negotiate directly with Dubai Waterfront for the acquisition of D17. The claims made by Sunland in the proceeding were strenuously defended

Justice Croft held that Sunland’s case failed in all respects. His Honour described the Sunland position, amongst other things, as ‘simply implausible in all the circumstances' 1, observing that, in the context of a clear explanation as to the nature of the commercial transaction which was the subject of the Sunland claims 'the Sunland submissions are an exercise in the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy'2.

The proceedings

Sunland’s proceeding was filed in the Federal Court of Australia, but transferred to the Victorian Supreme Court in November 2011 for hearing. The trial commenced on 29 November 2011 with Sunland closing its case on 12 December 2011. The defendants filed no evidence, with senior counsel for Prudentia and Reed describing the Sunland case as ‘a shambles’. Justice Croft’s reasons for judgment endorsed this submission. His Honour found that ‘[o]n the basis of my consideration of the evidence in relation to the transaction or transactions involving various parties with respect to Plot D17, I am of the opinion that Sunland has entirely failed to establish that the Representations were made by any of the defendants’3.

The principal Sunland witnesses were David Brown and Soheil Abedian (Sunland founder). Justice Croft accepted submissions against Sunland, that Brown’s contradictory evidence given during the trial on transactional issues ‘pointed to the utter unreliability of Brown’s evidence’ 4 and, at one point, that Brown’s evidence became ‘increasingly nonsensical’ 5. His Honour also accepted the defendants’ submissions that ‘Brown’s evidence in relation to the bribery allegations indicates, very clearly, that Brown cannot be taken as a reliable witness of truth’. 6

In relation to Abedian, his Honour concluded that Soheil Abedian was ‘a consistently uncooperative witness’ 7, ‘clearly prepared to give evidence in a manner which he saw as being advantageous to Sunland’s commercial interests in Dubai’, ‘unreliable’ and ‘could not be regarded as a reliable witness of truth’. His Honour found further that Abedian’s evidence in relation to an email relied on by Sunland as a principal pillar of its case against the defendants was ‘a complete fabrication’ 8 and ‘quite extraordinary’ 9 and his evidence in relation to his understanding of it ‘similarly unbelievable’. 10

In addition to his findings as to the lack of credibility of Sunland’s key witnesses, Justice Croft also observed, in relation to contradictory evidence given by Brown and Abedian, that ‘[t]his is an extraordinary state of affairs to have a serious conflict of evidence on such a significant issue in Sunland’s case between a person in Abedian’s position and that of Brown, Sunland’s chief operating officer of its Dubai branch in 2007, a director of SWB, a person upon whom Abedian said he relied and someone who, according to the evidence, reported fully on his activities to Abedian’. 11

His Honour also identified ‘some particular matters that should be mentioned, as they go some way to explaining the evidence of Brown and Abedian in relation to significant issues in the Sunland case – and why these witnesses took positions in their evidence at odds with what would be regarded as a fair reading of significant documents and also other evidence’. 12

Brown’s role in the Dubai investigation

Brown had given evidence during the Supreme Court hearing in late 2011 about the assistance and evidence he had provided to the Dubai Public Prosecution between December 2008 and May 2009 in relation to criminal charges brought against Joyce, Reed and two other Australians, Marcus Lee and Anthony Brearley. Joyce and Lee are under house arrest in Dubai awaiting judgment from the Dubai courts (expected on 17 June 2012).

Joyce and Lee were incarcerated in Dubai in January 2009 and held for six months without charge in a Dubai prison whilst the Dubai Public Prosecution, with the assistance of Sunland, undertook its investigation which led to criminal charges against the four Australians. The charges of fraud and taking commissions arose out of the D17 property transactions. The Dubai Prosecutor in large part relies on the evidence of and assertions made by Brown, evidence and assertions now found by the Victorian Supreme Court to be utterly unreliable.

Brown’s evidence during the Supreme Court trial included that:
(a) he had been under investigation for bribery through February to May 2009 at the time he was providing assistance to the prosecutor in Dubai;
(b) evidence which Brown had given to the prosecutor was inaccurate particularly insofar as it relates to Joyce and Reed; and
(c) Brown had taken no steps to correct any inaccuracies in his evidence given to the prosecutor or provide a more complete picture of what had occurred in relation to the relevant land transaction until July 2010 and then such correction was limited and incomplete.

In the judgment handed down on 8 June 2012, Justice Croft found that aspects of Brown’s oral evidence concerning the D17 property transaction ‘contradicted statements and sworn testimony which he had given to the Dubai authorities in the course of an investigation into the acquisition of Plot D17 in December 2008 and through to 2009’.13 His Honour also found that Brown’s witness statement filed in the Supreme Court was ‘also inconsistent with the agreed transcript of his interview, conducted under oath, with the Dubai prosecutors on 16 February 2009’.14 His Honour observed that ‘it is clear that, at various times, Brown’s personal interests (including the fear of remaining the subject of investigation for bribery by the Dubai authorities), together with his and Sunland’s commercial interests, coloured his statements and communications at various times’.15

Justice Croft found further that at least one document provided by Brown to the Dubai authorities was ‘a fabrication’ 16 and that Brown’s failure to provide other documents was ‘deliberate’, adding: ‘[t]his is particularly so having regard to the pressure Brown was then under personally in explaining the Plot D17 transaction to the Dubai authorities in a way that convinced them that it was lawful, together with the commercial consequences for Sunland, were they to find otherwise.’ 17

In relation to Abedian, Justice Croft found that ‘Abedian also gave inconsistent and unreliable evidence in relation to the information given to the Dubai authorities and in relation to his role in that respect’. 18

Sunland’s ASX announcements concerning the Dubai investigation

Brown also gave evidence during the Supreme Court hearing that media releases made by Sunland in 2009 concerning the Dubai investigation were ‘inaccurate’. Abedian had confirmed in subsequent cross examination that he was responsible for ‘all the announcements’18, including those made during the relevant period on 20 February, 2 March and 21 July 2009.

His Honour observed in the context of the evidence about these ASX announcements that ‘[t]hese issues are relevant in the present context because they demonstrate, further, the unreliability of the evidence of Abedian and reinforce my opinion that the evidence of both Brown and Abedian in relation to the D17 transaction was cast by them, as far as possible, to rebut any suggestion of a transaction of a type which might be characterised by the Dubai authorities as bribery’. 19

His Honour continued that ‘the evidence as it stands, indicates that [Sunland] has successfully persuaded the Dubai authorities that it is a “victim” of a fraud perpetrated against it and further, this is the message which it has apparently been disseminating to the world through the ASX releases to which reference has already been made’. 20

Justice Croft concluded in his judgment that a copy of his Honour’s reasons would be provided to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission with a request that the Commission consider the corporate governance issues for Sunland (including its ASX announcements) which are raised by the proceedings and take such further action as considered appropriate.

Restraint on Sunland civil claim in Dubai

In January 2012 Justice Croft made orders restraining Sunland from prosecuting a civil claim against Reed and Joyce in the Dubai courts where Sunland was seeking to recover the same damages sought in the Victorian proceeding.

Justice Croft observed in his judgment in January 2012 that the caution with which a court must approach the granting of an anti suit injunction was ‘overwhelmed by the circumstances of vexation and oppression involved in the maintenance of the civil proceedings in Dubai by Sunland and its consequent undermining of the integrity of the processes of this court’.

His Honour stated clearly on 8 June 2012 that nothing in his reasons for judgment affects the continuing operation of the orders made on 27 January 2012.

All quotes taken from the judgement.

1 At [136] 2 At [301] 3 At [244] 4 At [71] 5 At [227] 6 At [317] 7 At [221] 8 At [79] 9 At [269] 10 At [80] 11 At [326] 12 At [213] 13 At [47] 14 At [65] 15 At [138] 16 At [196] 17 At [196] 18 At [327] 19 At [333] 20 At [442]


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