THE dismissal of an appeal by Zimbabwe’s Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana and 122 other people, including top police and army officers as well as 11 companies “with costs”, could cost the country over US$10 million.
In dismissing the case, the General Court, second only to the European Court of Justice, said the appellants were correctly identified as being close to President Robert Mugabe’s government and its “serious infringement of human rights”.
Government hired two London barristers, one of them being David Vaughan QC (Queen’s Counsel) and another, Sarah Lee. QCs are top barristers who can charge on average £5 000 (US$7 500) per hour in legal fees. The Zimbabweans were being instructed by top lawyer Michael O’Kane of Peters and Peters Solicitors LLP.
O’Kane’s websites lists the Zimbabwean case as one of his top cases since 2013.
“Bringing the largest ever challenge against EU sanctions against 123 Zimbabwean designated entities,” reads O’Kane’s website.
Sources close to the developments said O’Kane was consulted by the Zimbabwe government for close to 200 hours from the time they launched a court challenge to the time it was dismissed.
“Government is supposed to pay about US$5 million to the two barristers and O’Kane, then approximately another US$5 million to the legal team of the winning party as well as costs incurred by the Council of the European Union and the European Commission,” a source said.
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent on Tuesday, O’Kane refused to reveal how much he had charged the Zimbabwean government.
“I’m afraid that is confidential information. Our local rate is £495 per hour and we have a range within the firm of £200-600 per hour,” he said.
While a solicitor instructs the clients and does most of the work before the court appearance, he hands over the case to the barrister who then represents the complainant in court. The barrister’s charges are higher than those of the solicitor.
Constitutional lawyer Chris Mhike said the Zimbabwe case was dismissed with costs.
“Dismissing with costs means the losing side, in this case Zimbabwe, is obliged to pay the winning party’s legal fees, that is the attorneys’ fees and sometimes counsel/advocate fees,” Mhike said.
“Zimbabwe is liable to pay the legal fees that were incurred by the lawyers of the respondents at the EU court.”
Tomana could not be contacted for a comment as his mobile phone went unanswered. His clients had called on the General Court of the European Union to annul the sanctions slapped Zimbabwe in 2002 over its poor human rights record and absence of the rule of law. The EU has since eased the measures hoping this would encourage Mugabe to introduce reforms.
In dismissing the application, the court said there was an adequate legal basis for the sanctions since the positions the applicants held “are such that it is legitimate to characterise them as leaders of Zimbabwe or as associates of those leaders and thereby to justify, on that ground alone, their being listed”.