No, this is not one of the lesser-known or apocryphal verses of the 21 Days of Christmas (though I like the idea of 18 injuncters injuncting…)
Grasso v Naik (twenty-one irregular divorces)  EWHC 2789 (Fam)
In which 21 petitioners applied for a divorce, over a nine year period, all of them living at exactly the same address , and it transpires, possessing the same handwriting.
Fraud most foul, cried the Queen’s Proctor, whose role it is to sniff out an illicitly obtained divorce and bring the miscreants to justice. I imagine the Queen’s Proctor to be something of a cross between Jim Rockford and Boba Fett. And if there’s anything cooler than Jim Rockford with a rocket pack, I don’t know what it is.
2.Mr Simon Murray, on behalf of the Queen’s Proctor, submits that in each case the court was deceived by fraud – essentially by the use of false addresses, 73 or 75 West End Road, Southall, Middlesex, UB1 1JQ – into accepting that it had jurisdiction to entertain the petition, with the consequence, he further submits, that each of the decrees, whether nisi or absolute, is void, irrespective of whether one or both of the parties has subsequently remarried or even had a child: see Rapisarda v Colladon; Re 180 Irregular Divorces  EWFC 35,  1 FLR 597, paras 7, 16, 28, 29(iii), 80-82.
If you are not familiar with Rapisarda v Colladon, it’s a cracker.
Don’t believe me? Just check out the post titles.
The pages of the most extravagant French novel and Fraud unravels everything. Awesome. I feel mildly ashamed of the title to this piece. Though Boba Rockford makes up for that, a little.
Who is behind this weird and peculiar plot? I’m thinking Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor, crossed with possibly the shark from Jaws. With 21 sets of divorce petitions being processed from that address, we’re going to need a bigger letterbox.
3.The Queen’s Proctor alleges, and I find as a fact, that the architect of these frauds, as I find them to be, was one Khalik Bhatoo, a former member of the English Bar. At the relevant times members of his family owned properties at 73 and 75 West End Road. By an order I made on 22 March 2017, Mr Bhatoo was joined as a third party to all of the 21 petitions. It is a matter of public record that Mr Bhatoo was convicted on 28 April 2003 before Kingston Magistrates Court of two offences of dishonesty in relation to obtaining housing and council tax benefits and that on 1 October 2006, following an unsuccessful appeal from the decision of the Tribunal, he was disbarred, after a Disciplinary Tribunal of the Council of the Inns of Court on 23 May 2005 had found him guilty of three offences of professional misconduct.
In case this hearing, involving Mandalorian Bounty Hunters, plucky but down-at-heel detectives, fraudulent sharks and Lex flipping Luthor; wasn’t lively enough we now introduce a handwriting expert. Cool.
11.Ms Thomas has considerable specialist experience in the scientific examination of questioned documents, including the comparison and identification of handwriting. Her report (which expresses her opinions by reference to an eight-point scale, ‘conclusive’, ‘very strong’, ‘strong’, ‘moderately strong’, ‘moderate’, ‘weak’, ‘inconclusive’ and ‘no support’) has two components to which I need to refer.
12.In relation to what Ms Thomas refers to as “non-signature writing” – that is, writing, other than the signature, on documents filed with the court – her opinion, based on examination of the files in fifteen of these cases, is that:
i) there is conclusive support for the proposition that Mr Bhatoo’s is the writing on both petitioner and respondent documents in nine cases;
ii) there is strong support for the proposition that Mr Bhatoo’s is the writing on both petitioner and respondent documents in two cases; and
iii) there is moderate support for the proposition that Mr Bhatoo’s is the writing on both petitioner and respondent documents in another case.
That evidence, which I have no hesitation in accepting, is striking.
13.In relation to the signatures on documents filed with the court, her opinion, based on examination of the files in these fifteen cases, is that there is moderate support for the proposition that Mr Bhatoo completed signatures of the petitioner in eight cases and of the respondent in two other cases. Otherwise, there is either no support for the proposition that he completed such signatures or her findings are inconclusive. Again, I have no hesitation in accepting that evidence. It suggests that Mr Bhatoo was guilty of forgery
One of the alleged petitioners gave a statement :-
14.Mrs Bi’s statement makes a number of assertions. For present purposes what is important is her evidence that, in the course of a telephone conversation with Mr Bhatoo, she informed him of her address (which was not either 73 or 75 West End Road). Examination of the court file shows that her address on the petition was stated to be 73 West End Road. Her statement continues:
“The signature on the Divorce Petition does not appear to be my signature. I do not recall signing it. I always sign in capital letters and the Divorce Petition is signed in lowercase. I attach a copy of my passport … and my Photocard Driving Licence … to confirm my signature.”
One does not need to be an expert to see that the signature on the Divorce Petition looks nothing like the signatures on the passport and Driving Licence or, for that matter, the signature to Mrs Bi’s statement. So in this case the Petition gave a false address for the petitioner and the signature on the Petition was forged.
Mr Bhattoo relied in this case on evidence filed by a Mr Patel (who claimed to have been a lawyer working out of offices at the aforesaid 75 West End Road. (Too many shadows whispering voice. Faces on posters too many choices. West End Road. Dum-dum-doo dum-dum-doo-doo)
Mr Patel may have many fine qualities – going up against the Queen’s Proctor and the President was perhaps outside his skill-set. You perhaps detect that he’s not vastly experienced at drafting a skeleton argument when he manages to misspell argument. So by the second WORD of his document, his case is sunk.
Still, he got skeleton right. So kudos. In part. And he didn’t call it his “Big Bone Bash”
17.Mr Bhatoo in his statement merely says “I confirm that I have read the statement of Mr Patel of today’s date and concur with the contents therein.” So it is to the latter document that I turn.
18.Mr Patel’s so-called Skeleton Arguement is a curious document, containing much bluster and irrelevance which there is no need for me to explore. The importance of the document is as much for what it does not say as for what it does, in circumstances where, as the document itself makes clear, the author has read and is seeking to respond to the Queen’s Proctor’s Plea. The document does not even attempt to engage in any detailed way with the expert evidence of Ms Thomas. Of critical importance, the document does not seek to assert that any of the relevant petitioners and respondents in fact lived at either 73 or 75 West End Road or to controvert the Queen’s Proctor’s case that none of them ever did. On the contrary, the assertion is repeatedly made in effect that this is neither here nor there:
“There is nothing in the law, act and rules in which a party is restricted to use a provided address as many times as he would like to file a petition of divorce.
… all these decrees have been made legally by a court of justice and cannot set aside [sic] only because the same address was used to file the petitions.
It is submitted that there is nothing in the law that prevent [sic] any person to file divorce petitions using the same addresses.”
Did this confident assertion work? It did not.
19.In my judgment, Mr Murray has proved his case in relation to each of these twenty-one petitions. In each case, as he submits, the underlying proceedings were tainted by deception in relation to the address of either the petitioner or the respondent, and the decrees, where decrees have been granted, were obtained by deception. Accordingly, I made an order at the conclusion of the final hearing on 10 October 2017 that:
i) the petitions listed in Part A of the Schedule are dismissed;
ii) in relation to the petitions listed in Part B of the Schedule, all decrees nisi and certificates are set aside and the petitions are dismissed;
iii) in relation to the petitions listed in Part C of the Schedule, all decrees absolute, decrees nisi and certificates are set aside and the petitions are dismissed.
So anyone who had paid Mr Bhatoo to obtain their divorce in England now finds themselves not only out of pocket, but still married. And potentially now a bigamist.
On the plus side, they know if they take him to Court, he’s probably going to file a document that misspells its own title.