John Oxenham

Primerio Law

135 Daisy Street Sandton
2031, Johannesburg, South Africa

Peers and clients say:

"John has vast commercial, finance, anti-trust and AML knowledge"
"John is determined to find solutions to tricky scenarios for clients, and his ability to do so after carefully considering the legal risks and potential pitfalls is nothing short of amazing"


John is the managing partner of Primerio. He has practiced in the regulatory, commercial litigation and antitrust fields locally and across the African region for over 20 years. He has been a partner at a major South African law firm, co-founder of a South African practice, and founder of the Primerio Pan-African legal group. John is a regular author and speaker who has published numerous papers and opinion pieces locally and internationally.

What has been your most interesting case to date, and why?

While there have been many captivating and high-value cases throughout my career as an asset recovery lawyer, representing Conservatorium/Centrebridge in the aftermath of the Steinhoff share price collapse is definitely a highlight. Following the repercussions of the Steinhoff scandal, this matter was instituted as a means to recover losses sustained by Centerbridge. The matter became one of the largest civil claims pursued in South African history. The EUR 1.6 billion claim was eventually settled through a section 155 settlement agreement.

The multijurisdictional matter involved efforts to untangle of a web of financial deceit in pursuance of the recovery of misappropriated funds back to our client. Our legal team worked to formulate comprehensive legal strategies, sifting through high volumes of evidence and creating persuasive arguments to be placed before the South African High Court. We also worked closely alongside experienced contacts and cross border teams as well as investigators in the matter to the benefit of our client.

The matter demanded a deep understanding of financial markets, requirements for good corporate governance, as well as the interplay between different legal systems due to the matter’s cross-border element.

How does Primerio Law distinguish itself from competition in the market?

Primerio takes great pride in our ability to distinguish ourselves from larger competitors in the market. With the growth of our firm, as well as our client’s requirements for an African-wide offering, our services and jurisdictional reach have expanded considerably. Primerio has also been involved in some of the most notable and highly publicised matters in South African history both in the private and public sector.

Our firm is comprised of highly skilled and experienced lawyers all specialising in their respective fields. Through our firm’s focus on defined practice areas, we have developed a deep level of expertise in such practice areas and have thus benefitted from specialised knowledge and insights.

In addition, Primerio is actively involved in several advocacy initiatives including leading the drafting of reward for whistleblowing legislation in South Africa and promoting the implementation of the OECD’s 2021 Anti Foreign Bribery Recommendations in South Africa. This has frequently necessitated engagements with leading prosecutors and the South African Minister of Justice.

What are some of the most effective tools at the disposal of asset recovery specialists in the course of litigation proceedings?

Collaboration with forensic accounting and asset tracing and recovery specialists assists in obtaining a deep understanding of financial records to identify dissipated funds for purposes of preparation of evidence and ultimately successful outcomes in our litigation matters.

If you could introduce a legal reform to aid asset recovery efforts globally, what would it be and why?

A key issue I would advocate for is to foster a greater relationship between private and public enforcement efforts. In our experience, particularly with complex offshore matters, civil society (namely, the private bar) is able to operate more expeditiously than government agencies. In the jurisdictions in which we operate, the victims of fraud and corruption are often state-owned enterprises who are themselves tainted at senior levels, which undermines efforts to secure a mandate and pursue assets. In this regard, we are already seeing the gap between the public and private closing, at least from a south African perspective.

How do you establish a detailed understanding of a client’s business to advise them effectively?

Our firm ensures that it provides a focused, tailored approach to each particular client, truly understanding our clients’ needs, objectives, concerns and future goals. We ensure that our legal strategy is tailored to each of these factors. The personalised attention we provide has allowed us to build strong relationships with our clients and provide them continuous support.

Can you describe your role as a representative of FraudNet, the International Chamber of Commerce's Anti-Crime arm?

Primerio is a representative of the International Chamber of Commerce’s asset recovery division, FraudNet, which enables us to leverage a variety of members worldwide. Our collaboration with FraudNet members has enabled us to work on a variety of cross-border matters, working together with the group to pursue and recoup assets that have been dissipated abroad.

Looking back over your career, what has been your proudest achievement?

Undoubtedly, my proudest achievement has been the start of Primerio, a group that has brought together a collection of legal experts from diverse jurisdictions as well as exceptional professionals with the capacity to deliver invaluable advice to clients.

What is one thing you wish you knew before practising as an asset recovery specialist?

When I began as an asset recovery specialist, the industry required a great level of cross-border collaboration between competent lawyers. This type of collaboration now exists through ICC’s FraudNet, which comprises an international network of independent asset recovery lawyers.