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Vincent Tchenguiz sues SFO for 200 million pounds

Property magnate Vincent Tchenguiz poses for a photograph as he arrives at the High Court in London March 16, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Winning
Property magnate Vincent Tchenguiz poses for a photograph as he arrives at the High Court in London March 16, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

LONDON (Reuters) - Property baron Vincent Tchenguiz has launched a 200 million pound ($322 million) damages claim against Britain's Serious Fraud Office, saying his reputation took a "serious" hit from the fraud-buster's bungled probe.

Vincent and his brother Robert were arrested in March 2011 in dawn raids at their homes and offices as part of an investigation into their dealings with Icelandic bank Kaupthing before its collapse in 2008.

The SFO dropped its probe into Vincent in June and its investigation into Robert - who is also expected to sue the agency - in October, ending a lengthy and embarrassing episode during which it was slammed by senior judges for "sheer incompetence".

"My reputation suffered serious damage during the 15 months between my arrest and the SFO conceding that they had no grounds for holding me as a suspect," Tchenguiz said in a statement on Monday.

The SFO was not immediately available for comment.

A hearing was held on Monday morning in London's High Court, with a trial provisionally scheduled for January 2014 and expected to last for eight weeks, the statement said.

Last month the Iranian-born brothers won the lion's share of their multi-million pound costs in their legal battle against the Serious Fraud Office over the bungled probe.

The decision, which was handed down on November 15, could see the SFO pick up a tab of up to 3.0 million pounds ($4.8 million) - 10 percent of its annual budget - in legal costs. ($1 = 0.6213 British pounds)

(Reporting by Tommy Wilkes and Luke Jeffs; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)

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