Judges will enforce arbitrators’ decisions

Posted: 13th February 2017

ShippingOne of the principal reasons why commercial arbitrators often sit in London is that the English courts are well known for enforcing their decisions to the hilt. In one case that proved the point, a businessman who ignored an arbitration award and court orders was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.

Bunge had obtained a $61,239 arbitration award against a shipping company, Huaya Maritime Corporation, that was under Mr Hua’s control. No attempt was made to satisfy the award and, after Bunge launched enforcement proceedings, orders were made by the High Court freezing Huaya’s assets and requiring disclosure of financial information.

There had been no compliance with any of those orders and neither Huaya nor Mr Zhu Guo Hua had responded to a number of emails that had warned them of the seriousness of the matter. The Court noted that it was as if the orders and emails had fallen into a void and that Mr Hua appeared to believe that, so long as he stayed outside the borders of the UK, he would evade punishment.

There had been no excuse proffered by Huaya or Mr Hua and the Court found that the latter’s conduct amounted to a wilful interference with the administration of justice. In the circumstances, a prison sentence close to the two-year maximum that could be imposed for contempt was justified.