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A multi-million pound damages claim against Ince & Co in Greece has taken a strange turn as the former client bringing the claim has asked the court to freeze firm assets of up to €35m (£23m). Blue Strim Maritime issued the €30m (£20m) claim in the Greek courts in May, alleging that the firm negligently handled an arbitration in 1996 against Romanian state carrier Romline. The company is also attempting to bring criminal claims against seven Ince partners for alleged fraud and conspiracy to defraud. Ince strongly denies the claims and is bringing its own criminal claims for defamation. However, Blue Strim has now filed a petition requesting the ‘arrest’ of Ince’s firm-wide assets including income or property up to the value of €35m, until the hearing of the action in 2008. Professional liability lawyers in the City are mystified by the petition and the need to bring it against an international law firm covered by professional indemnity insurance. “I have only seen this once before,” commented one negligence lawyer, adding. “It sounds like some kind of tactical pre-emptive strike”. It is unclear how the order in the Greek courts would be enforced against the City partnership. Another negligence specialist told Legal Week: “In the UK the company would have to show a good arguable case – the risk of dissipation of funds by an international law firm must be slim.” Blue Strim’s application is based on the partnership practice of distributing profits on a quarterly or bi-annual basis to partners, which, the company alleges, will leave them out of funds. Ince’s Greece managing partner, John Elvey, told Legal Week: “We believe that this case is entirely without merit.”

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