Contemnor required to attend an in person hearing for cross examination (Deutsche Bank AG v Sebastian Holdings Inc and another)

15 Sep 2023

Dispute Resolution analysis: An admitted contemnor subject to a suspended warrant for committal has been ordered to attend in person for cross examination in relation to the assets of a company he controlled. His request to attend the hearing remotely by video link from Connecticut was refused.

Deutsche Bank AG v Sebastian Holdings Inc and another [2023] EWHC 2234 (Comm)

What are the practical implications of this case?

Since the start of the pandemic, Courts in England and Wales have become accustomed to considering the circumstances in which it is appropriate for hearings to be conducted remotely using video link technology. Whilst it has been widely accepted that this technology presents challenges, such as time lags, connection failures and cross talk, these inconveniences are typically weighed against the potential benefits of such hearings and the substantial inconvenience which they can help to avoid. This judgment suggests that such a balancing act applies difficulty in relation to the cross examination of contemnors in the context of suspended warrants of committal. The Court here held that the innocent party should not bear any risk of such technological failings and the contemnor should be required to attend in person, even if that means travelling from Connecticut and even if he asserts that substantial inconvenience would be caused to him by attending.

What was the background?

On 15 July 2022, Moulder J made a committal order against Mr Alexander Vik. She had been satisfied that Mr Vik had been guilty of contempt of Court in failing to comply with an order of Teare J dated 20 July 2015, pursuant to which Mr Vik was to produce certain documents and to attend court to provide information as to the means of the corporate Defendant, Sebastian Holdings Inc. The order committed Mr Vik to HMP Pentonville for a period of 20 months and ordered that a Warrant of Committal be issued to that effect. However, she suspended that committal in terms that “the warrant of committal remain in the Court Office at the Royal Courts of Justice, on condition that Mr Vik complies with the terms set out in Schedule B to this order”. The terms set out in Schedule B provided that Mr Vik was to attend Court to be examined by Deutsche Bank on various matters. The Schedule indicated that, on attending court, Mr Vik was required to provide accurate answers to the best of his knowledge and belief to any questions asked of him in relation to those matters. The further examination hearing was listed to be heard on 19 and 20 September 2023. A dispute arose as to whether (as Deutsche Bank argued) Mr Vik was required to attend Court in person for this further examination or whether (as Mr Vik argued) he should be permitted to attend remotely from Connecticut by video link. This was a judgment in which case management directions were given in relation to that question.

What did the court decide?

Mr Justice Bryan ordered, in accordance with his general case management powers contained in CPR r. 3.1(2)(c), that Mr Vik’s attendance at the further examination hearing was to be in person. He did not consider that Deutsche Bank should be exposed to any risk of technological failure, time lags, overlapping questions and answers or any other issues which might arise as a result of shortcomings in the nature of the hearing being remote, in light of Mr Vik’s admitted status as a contemnor. The Court was critical of the stance adopted by Mr Vik in which he suggested that such an order would lead to justice not being done on the basis that Deutsche Bank would lose its opportunity to cross examine Mr Vik about Sebastian Holdings Inc’s assets. Mr Vik’s stance constituted a threat not to attend Court in light of the absence of any evidence that he was unable to attend. On the contrary, Mr Vik was simply refusing to attend, or at least indicating that he would refuse. There was no evidence before the Court that, if Mr Vik did take steps to attend the hearing in person, Deutsche Bank would attempt to prevent his departure from England and Wales. The Court was concerned that it would be bowing to blackmail and bringing the administration of justice into disrepute if it simply accepted Mr Vik’s assertion that he would not attend the in person examination and shrugged. The Court distinguished the position in Polanski v Conde Nast Publications Limited [2005] 1 WLR 637 in which the Claimant, Mr Polanski was potentially liable to be extradited to the US if he attended a hearing in person in the UK.

Case details

  • Court: High Court of Justice, Business and Property Courts of England and Wales, Commercial Court
  • Judge: Mr Justice Bryan
  • Date of judgment: 1 September 2023

Article by Phillip Patterson – first published by LexisNexis


Phillip Patterson

Call: 2008


This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of Chambers or by Chambers as a whole.


Please note that we do not give legal advice on individual cases which may relate to this content other than by way of formal instruction of a member of Gatehouse Chambers. However, if you have any other queries about this content please contact: