High Court declines jurisdiction in US$1.2 billion damages claim

5 April, 2022

Substantial fraud proceedings seeking US$1.2bn in damages brought in the Commercial Court in Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC (“ADCB”) v. Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty and Ors [2022] EWHC 529 (Comm) have been stayed, and worldwide freezing orders discharged, on the basis that Abu Dhabi is clearly the appropriate forum for the determination of ADCB’s claims.

The proceedings are part of the litigation surrounding the collapse of the NMC Healthcare Group, established by Dr Shetty.

By its claims pleaded in English law and positing UAE law only as an alternative, ADCB alleged that a number of loan facilities had been procured by misrepresentations, including misstatements relating to the accounts of NMC Health Plc, an entity listed on the LSE.

However, by judgment handed down on Friday 1 April, HHJ Pelling QC, sitting as a Judge of the Commercial Court, determined that the various factors engaged pointed to the appropriate forum for the determination of ADCB’s claims being Abu Dhabi. Although service had been effected on Dr Shetty within the jurisdiction under s.1140 Companies Act, his connection with this jurisdiction was weak, whereas all of the parties are (or were) habitually resident in the UAE and it was indisputably UAE and not English law that applied. The practical considerations, including as to witness and document location, also supported this conclusion. The Judge also found that there had been failures of full and frank disclosure by ADCB at the without notice hearing.

As a consequence of his conclusion on forum, the Judge discharged a US$1 billion worldwide freezing order in respect of the defendants who challenged jurisdiction.

A copy of the judgment is available here.

The First Defendant, Dr Shetty, was represented by Ruth den Besten, instructed by John Wilkinson and Jolyon Connell of Farrer & Co LLP.

James Sheehan appeared for the Second and Third Defendants, Khaleefa Butti and His Excellency Saeed Butti, led by Tim Penny QC (Wilberforce Chambers), with Sam Goodman (Twenty Essex) and Fred Alliott (7KBW), instructed by Trevor Mascarenhas of PCB Byrne LLP.