Armagas Ltd v Mundogas SA (‘The Ocean Frost’): CA 1985

Proof of corruption not needed for bribe

In establishing that money was paid as an improper inducement or bribe, proof of corruptness or a corrupt motive was unnecessary.
When a court looks at a decision of a judge at first instance, the court stressed the need to look at the objective facts and the overall probabilities.
Held: Mundogas was not vicariously liable for Mr. Magelssen’s deceit.
Goff LJ said: ‘Speaking from my own experience I have found it essential in cases of fraud when considering the credibility of witnesses always to test their veracity by reference to objective facts proved independently of their testimony, in particular by reference to the documents in the case and also to pay a particular regard to their motives and to the overall probabilities. It is frequently very difficult to tell whether a witness is telling the truth or not; and where there is a conflict of evidence . . Furthermore it is implicit in the statement of Lord MacMillan in Powell v. Streatham Manor Nursing Home at p. 256 that the probabilities and possibilities of the case may be such as to impel an appellate Court to depart from the opinion of the trial Judge formed upon his assessment of witnesses whom he has seen and heard in the witness box. Speaking from my own experience, I have found it essential in cases of fraud when considering the credibility of witnesses, always to test their veracity by reference to the objective facts proved independently of their testimony, in particular by reference to the documents, to the witnesses’ motives and to the overall probabilities can be of very great assistance to a judge in ascertaining the truth. I have been driven to the conclusion that the Judge did not pay sufficient regard to these matters in making his findings of fact in the present case.’
On the facts as found and ‘the effect of the judge’s conclusion was that, although Mr. Magelssen did not have ostensible authority to enter into the contract, he did have ostensible authority to tell Mr. Jensen and Mr. Dannesboe that he had obtained actual authority to do so. This is, on its face, a most surprising conclusion. It results in an extraordinary distinction between (1) a case where an agent, having no ostensible authority to enter into a relevant contract, wrongly asserts that he is invested with actual authority to do so, in which event the principal is not bound; and (2) a case where an agent, having no ostensible authority, wrongly asserts after negotiations that he has gone back to his principal and obtained actual authority, in which event the principal is bound. As a matter of common sense, this is most unlikely to be the law.’


Goff LJ, Staughton J, Dunn J


[1985] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 1, [1985] 1 WLR 640


England and Wales


CitedHovenden and Sons v Millhoff 1900
Romer LJ said: ‘The courts of law in this country have always strongly condemned and, when they could, punished the bribing of agents, and have taken a strong view as to what constitutes a bribe. I believe the mercantile community as a whole . .
CitedIndustries and General Mortgage Co Ltd v Lewis 1949
When arranging with the plaintiff company to obtain a loan for the defendant V stipulated that he should be paid half the procuration fee which the defendant would be charged for the company’s services. The company knew that V was to receive from . .
AdoptedWatt (or Thomas) v Thomas HL 1947
When Scots Appellate Court may set decision aside
The House considered when it was appropriate for an appellate court in Scotland to set aside the judgment at first instance.
Lord Thankerton said: ‘(1) Where a question of fact has been tried by a judge without a jury, and there is no question . .

Cited by:

CitedDr Anya v University of Oxford and Another CA 22-Mar-2001
Discrimination – History of interactions relevant
When a tribunal considered whether the motive for an act was discriminatory, it should look not just at the act, but should make allowance for earlier acts which might throw more light on the act in question. The Tribunal should assess the totality . .
AdoptedGrace Shipping v CF Sharp and Co (Malaya) Pte Ltd PC 10-Dec-1986
(Singapore) When a court has to weigh the various and varying recollections of witnesses about what was said at meetings which occurred in the distant past, the surest guides are the contemporaneous documents and the overall probabilities.
Lord . .
AppliedNina Naicker Gow v Dr Rosemary Harker CA 31-Jul-2003
The defendant had taken a blood sample. The claimant asserted that because the needle had been inserted incorrectly she had suffered damage to her wrist.
Held: Guidance from cases involving allegations of fraud could be relevant when assessing . .
CitedNiru Battery Manufacturing Company, Bank Sepah Iran v Milestone Trading Limited CA 23-Oct-2003
The claimant had contracted to purchase lead from some of the defendants. There were delays in payment but when funds were made available they should have been repaid. An incorrect bill of lading was presented. The bill certified that the goods had . .
CitedDEG-Deutsche Investitions und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH v Koshy and Other (No 3); Gwembe Valley Development Co Ltd (in receivership) v Same (No 3) CA 28-Jul-2003
The company sought to recover damages from a director who had acted dishonestly, by concealing a financial interest in a different company which had made loans to the claimant company. He replied that the claim was out of time. At first instance the . .
Appeal fromArmagas Ltd v Mundogas SA (‘The Ocean Frost’) HL 22-May-1985
Ostensible authority creates estoppel
Apparent authority as agent can arise where an employer by words or conduct has represented that his employee, who has purported to act on behalf of the employer, is authorised to do what he is purporting to do. Ostensible authority depends on a . .
CitedFlannery and Another v Halifax Estate Agencies Ltd, Trading As Colleys Professional Services CA 18-Feb-1999
A judge at first instance taking a view on an expert’s report should give reasons in his judgment for that view. On appeal, where no reasons had been given, he should be asked to provide reasons by affidavit for the appeal. An inadequately reasoned . .
CitedFen and others v D’Cruz and others CA 13-Mar-2007
The parties disputed whether the first defendant had been held out to be a partner in the second defendant’s firm of solicitors. The first defendant had later absonded. Appeal dismissed. . .
CitedIn Re Selectmove Ltd CA 21-Dec-1993
Promisse to Pay Tax due is not Consideration
The company appealed against an order for its winding up, saying that the debt was disputed, an accomodation having been reached with the Revenue.
Held: The court declined to regard a promise to the Revenue by a company to pay its existing . .
CitedThornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd QBD 26-Jul-2011
The claimant alleged defamation and malicious falsehood in an article published and written by the defendants. She complained that she was said to have fabricated an interview with the second defendant for her book. An interview of sorts had now . .
AppliedGoodman v Faber Prest Steel CA 5-Mar-2013
The defendant appealed against the award of damages after being found liable for injuries caused in a road traffic accident. They disputed whether the injuries now complained of were the result of the accident.
Held: the appeal succeed and the . .
CitedNuttal and Another v Kerr and Another QBD 25-Jul-2019
The defendant sought to appeal from a judgment given only after a long delay.
Held: Permission to appeal was necessary, and given, but the appeal itself failed: ‘(1) There is no evidence of fault of the Judge at any or any material point other . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Evidence, Torts – Other, Agency

Updated: 12 December 2022; Ref: scu.183409