R v Gaming Board for Great Britain, ex parte Benaim and Khaida

CourtCourt of Appeal
JudgeTHE MASTER OF THE ROLLS
Judgment Date23 Mar 1970
JurisdictionEngland & Wales

[1970] EWCA Civ J0323-2

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

Appeal by Gilbert Benaim and Youssef Khaida

Before

The Master of the Rolls (Lord Denning),

Lord Wilberforce and

Lord Justice Phillimore.

The Queen
and
Gaming Board for Great Britain
Ex. Parte Benaim and Khaida.

Mr. QUINTIN HOGG, Q.C., and Mr. ANTHONY LESTER (instructed by Messrs. Theodore Goddard & Co.) appeared on behalf of the applications.

Mr. RAYMOND KIDWELL, Q.C., and Mr. LIONEL READ (instructed by Messrs. Gregory Rowcliffe & Co.) appeared on behalf of the Gaming Board of Great Britain.

THE MASTER OF THE ROLLS
1

Crockfords is one of the famous gaming clubs in London. It has premises of distinction at 16 Carlton House Terrace, which it holds from the Crown Estates Commissioners. It seeks a certificate to enable it to apply for a gaming licence. The Gaming Board have refused their consent. So Crockfords is faced with extinction. It applies to this Court to quash the decision on the Gaming Board. It says that they did not act in accordance with the rules of natural justice.

2

Three years ago, in 1967, the gaming clubs in England were having a very profitable time. They had found a way to avoid the Gaming Acts of 1960 and 1963. The Courts had let through their devices. So much so that the police had given up any effort to enforce the law. The prospects were so promising that new clubs were springing up all the time. It was in this climate that in October 1967 two Frenchmen came to England. They made a bid to take over Crockfords. Their names were Gilbert Benaim and Youssef Khaida. They had vast experience: for they had run gaming clubs in Algiers and in Paris. They obtained work permits from the Home Office. They became joint managing directors of Crockfords. They agreed to pay £185,000 for the shares to control it. They sought permission from the Bank of England to carry through the deal. But then there came a hitch. The treasury was not prepared to grant permission at that stage. But this disappointment did not deter them. They went ahead with their plans. They still ran Crockfords.

3

In the next year, 1968, things changed. First, the House of Lords declared that the device of "Offering the bank" to be illegal. Next, this Court warned the gaming clubs; "No longer will we tolerate these devices". Finally, the police declared that they would enforce the law. But the gaming clubs, or, at any rate, some of them, took no notice. They tried other devices, such as marker chips, or "kittyscoop". But the Courts soon declared these to be illegal also. Crockfords themselves were among the transgressors. On the 24th January, 1969, they were summoned at Bow Street and fined £200 and costs.

4

Parliament itself also intervened. "Enough", it said, "of these devices. We are tired of this continual battle between the gaming clubs and the law - with the clubs always one jump ahead. We will try a new way altogether. So parliament enacted the Gaming Act, 1968. By this statute there was to be no gaming at all except in premises licensed for the purpose: but, once licensed, gaming can take place without hindrance. The licence will be granted by the licensing justice; but, before any person can even apply for a licence, he must be certified as one who can be trusted. He must go before a responsible body, the Gaming Board, set up for the purpose. He must get a "certificate of consent" from the Board. Else he cannot apply for a licence.

5

On 28th February, 1969, Crockfords applied to the Board for a certificate of consent. They filled in all the forms. They set out the games which they wished to play. We are by now familiar with them, chemin-de-fer, baccarat, roulette, blackjack, and craps. They also set out the stakes. They were high enough. They gave all the particulars about Mr. Benaim and Mr. Khaida and others who would be concerned in running the club. At first they put in the application in the names of two limited companies, who were legally the owners of the club; but on 12th November, 1969, at the suggestion of the Board, they amended the application so as to name Mr. Benaim and Mr. Khaida as the applicants.

6

On 11th December, 1969, there was a meeting of the Gaming Board. It was a responsible body. There were present Sir Stanley Raymond, the Chairman of the Board, Sir Ranulph Bacon, (former Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis), Mr. Usherwood (Deputy Chairman of the Prudential Assurance company), Mr. Ravenscroft, the Accountant for the Board; and Mr. Saunders. the Secretary. There came to the meeting Mr. Beniam, Mr. Khaida and Captain Black, all representing Crockfords.

7

The chairman told them that they could be legally represented if they wished, but they did not so desire. The meeting lasted for hours. It was soon apparent that the Board had gathered together a lot of information about Crockfords. They did not tellfrom whom they got it. But it is a fair guess that they had got a good deal from the police; and no doubt other sources. They said they were troubled about it. They asked questions concerning it. This is bow Mr. Benaim described it in his affidavit: "We were questioned about the circumstances in which the application came to be made, our residence in the United Kingdom, our previous experience of the management of gaming clubs, our motives in wishing to purchase and run Crockford's, the staff whom we proposed to employ at Crockfords, certain transactions involving the taking abroad of cheques drawn on foreign banks, the expropriation of our assets in Algeria, our commercial Interest and activities in France, and our relations with and the background of several named individual proposed employees and acquaintances. We answered all these questions in considerable detail to the best of our knowledge, information and belief. At the end of the meeting, the Chairman added that if we considered that there was any further information which we should supply, we should do so within twenty-one days." In pursuance of that invitation Captain Black wrote a letter of the 12th December, 1969, covering some points which he said: were not fully answered yesterday; and on the 31st December he wrote on behalf of Mr. Benaim and Mr. Khaida offering to give assurances to the Board.

8

On 9th January, 1970, the Board came to their decision. They refused their consent. The Secretary wrote to Captain Black saying: "When Mr. J. Khaida and Mr. G. Beniam attended with you for interview on 11 December last the matters troubling the Board were discussed and their representations noted. Your letters of 12 December and 31 December have also been considered by the Board, who, however, have decided not to issue a Certified of Consent in this case."

9

Mr. Benaim and Mr. Khaida at once consulted their solicitors. On the 14the January, 1970, the solicitors wrote asking the Board to re-open the case. On the 21st January, 1970, the Board replied that they would not re-open it. They said they were not prepared "to entertain a new or amended application if respect ofCrockford's in the current round". On the 13th February, 1970, the solicitors wrote again asking for the reasons for the Board's decision. On the 24th February 1970 the Board replied in a letter which I must read, for it is a summary of the matters inquired into:

10

"As your clients are aware, the matters discussed with them at the interview on 11 December 1969, were:-

(a) the association of your clients with certain persons who are of unacceptable background and reputation, especially with Marcel Paul Francisci, Roland Francisci, and Amede Darlay (or Attal).

(b) the Board's doubts as to the capacity of your clients to control the club effectively, having regard to the extent of their business interests outside Great Britain, the time they spend outside great Britain, and their imperfect command of the English language.

(c) the misgivings raised by certain transactions involving the taking abroad of cheques drawn on foreign banks. The Board sought to satisfy themselves that this was not done with the object of evading exchange control.

(d) the uncertainty as to the legal ownership of Crockfords. While your clients appeared to be the de facto owners, it was necessary to establish their effective and lawful ownerships and to explore the circumstances of the purchase.

(e) the doubt thrown on the character of your clients by their operations as hoteliers and casino managers in Algeria during and before the civil war in that country and their subsequent expulsion.

11

The Board made clear that these were the matters troubling them, and your clients showed by their replies that they understood this. They were given every opportunity to answer at length and at the end of the interview they were invited to make further representations in writing concerning any of these matters within 21 days, and were told that the Board would then determine the application. Further representations were received in lettersdated 12 and 13 December. These were considered by the Board and their decision that the application did not satisfy the requirements of Paragraph 4(5) and (6) of Schedule 2 to the Gaming not was conveyed by letter of 9 January."

12

The solicitors were still not satisfied. On the 25th February, they wrote asking the Board to indicate which of the matters set out in paragraphs (a) to (e) were still troubling the Board. To thie the Board replied at once, the same date, saying:

"The Board are not obliged to give their reasons for the decisions they reach and it is not their practice to do so. They are not prepared to indicate to what extent they are still not satisfied in regard to any of the specific matters mentioned at (a) to (e) in the second paragraph of my letter of 24 February. They are, however, prepared to consider further written representations on any of these matters if your clients wish to put further evidence before then."

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