England and Wales becoming litigation capital of the world

Posted: 12th June 2012

England and Wales’ hopes of becoming the litigation capital of the world could be at stake as two multi-million pound international cases were heard at London's High Court.
The flagship £25 million Rolls Building, opened by the Queen last year, was the venue for a case brought by Mrs Daab Sharab, a Jordanian woman who claims she is owed $10 million by a Saudi Prince over the sale of an aircraft to the late-Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi.
The commercial court next door, meanwhile, hosted Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who is fighting a case brought against him by Russian airline Aeroflot over the alleged misappropriation of $75 million into Swiss banks during the late 1990s.
Before either case can proceed to trial, judges are being asked to decide whether the courts of England and Wales have any jurisdiction to hear the disputes.
Lawyers for Mrs Sharab say she assisted in the $120 million sale of an Airbus 340 to Libyan despot Colonel Gaddafi in 2006, and was promised $10 million by Prince Al-Waleed Al-Saud for her work.
She says she can claim in England and Wales because the meetings where the commission was allegedly offered took place in London. However, lawyers for Prince Al-Saud argue that the High Court has no power to hear the case.
In the neighbouring court room, lawyers for Aeroflot claimed Mr Berezovsky and another man diverted funds out of Russia following the break-up of the Soviet Union.
However, Mr Berezovsky, who denies the claims, says the dispute has a political, rather than a legal origin and the High Court should decline jurisdiction.
He also argues that, because the corporate and financial bodies involved in the case are based in Switzerland, Luxembourg and Cyprus, the whole matter has no place in an English court.
Partly state-owned Aeroflot deny any political motivation to the claims, and insist that because Mr Berezovsky now lives in the UK, an English judge should hear the case.
Sir William Blackburne, sitting in the Sharab case, and Mr Justice Floyd, presiding over the Aeroflot claim, both reserved their judgments on whether the hearings can go ahead in England.