A multi-millionaire banker has sued a CCTV installer after his French Riviera home was broken into – but only the security system was taken.
Ivan Ritossa and his wife Marina claim that Bruce Pearce, a security expert from Kent, burgled their villa in St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat as an "act of spite" in a row over an £8,000 unpaid invoice.
They couple, who also own a £10 million Chelsea home, claim that Mr Pearce felt he had been "shafted" over his bill for installing a security system into their large holiday home and developed an "irrational animosity" towards Mrs Ritossa.
They are now suing his company Elegant Integration Ltd for £58,592.43 in damages, plus lawyers' costs of more than £145,000.
Central London County Court heard that Mr Pearce is defending the claim, which he calls "outlandish and speculative”, claiming it was born out of a “grudge” Mrs Ritossa developed towards him.
The row is centred on their Cote d’Azur holiday home which includes a main house, pool and separate cottage
He is countersuing the couple for payment of his £7,820.16 final invoice.
The couple's barrister, James Wibberley, told Judge David Saunders that the row is centred on their Cote d’Azur holiday home which includes a main house, pool and separate cottage.
Mr Wibberley told the court that the break-in happened over the weekend of Nov 30 2019, when a security system and other items supplied and/or installed by the defendants were damaged and/or stolen.
He said the claimants believe the break-in was "perpetrated by – or on behalf of – the defendants as an act of spite following Mrs Ritossa’s refusal to pay Mr Pearce’s final invoices".
He told the judge that, after hiring Mr Pearce in 2018 to install the security system, relations “deteriorated”. Mrs Ritossa complained the work had not been completed and the system did not function correctly.
The court heard that Mr Pearce refused to carry out any more work until he had been paid up front.
In Nov 2019, the break-in occurred and Mr Pearce emailed the couple shortly afterwards saying he would not be doing any further work for them.
The barrister said that the burglary involved “the disabling and removal of the security system, door entry system and Sonance speakers supplied and/or installed by the defendants”.
'The intruder was able to remotely access, disable and delete the library of CCTV recordings'
“Nothing was taken except items installed by Mr Pearce,” he said.
“The intruder was also able to remotely access, disable and delete the library of CCTV recordings," he added.
“It is the claimants’ case that Mr Pearce was the only person capable of erasing the direct evidence of the perpetrator committing the break-in.”
He said the basis of Mr Pearce's defence is that Mrs Ritossa had "some sort of mental breakdown causing her to invent the matters that form the subject of this claim".
He added that the "attacks" against Mrs Ritossa go "far beyond anything that could be considered necessary or even relevant".
However, Rowan Pennington-Benton, representing Mr Pearce, denied the claim and said that there was no direct evidence to suggest Mr Pearce was behind the raid.
“Mr Pearce vehemently and wholeheartedly denies this and views this claim as an unmeritorious, intimidatory tactic by wealthy property owners who have wrongly formed the view that he has broken into their property,” he said.
“The defendants categorically deny these allegations and submit that a sophisticated intrusion and burglary of the claimants’ property, in a foreign country, as a result of unpaid invoices in the sum of £7,820.16, is outlandish and speculative."
He added: “It is clear from inter-party correspondence and the evidence filed that Mrs Ritossa in particular holds a very dim view of Mr Pearce, what might be called a ‘grudge’."
The case was adjourned.
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