07 April 2017

London Commercial Court rules on luxury Dubai development

Baker McKenzie has won a major litigation case for Dubai Islamic Bank against a company planning a luxury resort in Dubai, raising issues from the volatility of the Dubai property market to interplay with Sharia law.

Global law firm Baker McKenzie has successfully acted for Dubai Islamic Bank PJSC in its defence of a USD 2 billion claim brought against it in the English Commercial Court by Plantation Holdings (FZ) LLC, a holding company owned by an Argentinian-resident property developer.  The claim was based on allegations of breach of contract and breach of the Bank's duties as mortgagee in possession of a 20 million square foot plot of land on the outskirts of Dubai, which Plantation had planned to develop into a high-end luxury lifestyle and equestrian complex. The Bank took security over the project as part of the restructuring of a USD 500 million debt owed to it as a result of a complex receivables financing fraud.

Eight week trial

The case was heard in an eight week trial, with evidence from witnesses from seven jurisdictions.  Mr Justice Picken ruled that Plantation's principal director had "made up" evidence and that another of Plantation's witnesses had "manufactured" documents. It ordered the bank to pay nominal damages, calculated in the sum of £1 whilst Plantation was ordered to pay 70% of the Bank's costs on the indemnity basis. The judge also refused Plantation permission to appeal.

Complex

Commenting on the case, London-based partner Hugh Lyons said: "This is a great result for our client in a major litigation case, which is among the most significant and most complex commercial disputes in the market.' The Baker McKenzie London team was led by disputes partner Hugh Lyons, and supported by associates Fiona Lockhart, Luke Richardson, Emily Tilden-Smith, Ben Levitt and Kate Ballantine-Dykes. Baker McKenzie instructed Robert Anderson QC of Blackstone Chambers and William Edwards of 3 Verulam Buildings.

Issues raised

The nature of the case also resulted in examining the volatility of the Dubai property market and the functionality of its property registration system, as well as the Dubai authorities' approach to financial misconduct. It also raised questions as to the interplay between English, Dubai and Sharia law in financing transactions.