JD Wetherspoon (JDW) has issued a writ against a private property company in the latest instalment of its pursuit through the courts of property firms, agents and advisors that it believes may have acted illegally in the sourcing of properties for the 750-strong pub group. The group is suing Rican Securities, which owns a JD Wetherspoon freehold in Kettering, over an alleged bribe its agent paid to a director of the pub group's former adviser Van de Berg (VDB). VDB and its director Christian Braun lost a court case to JDW last year and was found to have acted fraudulently, knowingly diverting freehold property to third party landlords despite being mandated by JDW to source freehold property wherever possible. JDW, which operates about 750 pubs, has now launched a claim against Rican, its director Andrew Klein, and its alleged agent Richard Blakeley. Finding in favour of JDW, in his decision of 31 March 2009, Judge Peter Smith referred to evidence given by another director of VDB Richard Harvey. The judge said that "a big handicap" in dealing with Harvey's evidence was his conduct over the acquisition of a 50-year lease for JDW at an annual rent of £50,000 on a pub in Dalkeith Place in Kettering, which was bought by Rican for £250,000. The judge found that when the lease was acquired by JDW, Harvey received £24,200 in fees – which were never disclosed to VDB or to JDW. The judge said that Harvey's answers as to the circumstances of the payment were "completely unsatisfactory" and that he did not believe that “Harvey told a full and accurate picture as to how he came to have possession of this large sum of money”. He said: "I cannot see any honest basis for it and he did not put one forward. Merely saying, as he did, that it was greed and was taken on the spur of the moment is insufficient. It seriously colours in my view his credibility as a witness as a whole." It is thought that the payment came from either Blakely sharing his commission from Rican or indirectly from Rican. Following that verdict, a claim has been filed against Blakeley alleging dishonest assistance and against Rican and Klein alleging vicarious liability for Blakeley's alleged actions. Details of the claim emerged in the High Court when lawyers for JDW asked the court for an injunction to restrain Rican from selling or moving any of its assets. However, the parties agreed that JDW would withdraw the application provided Rican paid £1.75m into its solicitor's client account pending trial or further order in the matter. Pinsent Masons is thought to be advising JDW. It is thought that JDW has instructed its lawyers to look at other cases where freehold property may have intentionally been diverted to third parties, to the benefit of others and the detriment of JDW and its shareholders.