Service of execution process upon a sovereign state

13 October, 2023

In a judgment handed down in the Commercial Court on 11 October 2023, Master Davison dismissed a challenge by the defendant (Republic of Ghana) to the service of applications by the claimant (GPGC) seeking charging orders and a receivership order in respect of various properties located in London: see GPGC Limited v. The Government of the Republic of Ghana [2023] EWHC 2531 (Comm).

GPGC obtained an arbitral enforcement order granted by Mrs Justice Cockerill in November 2021 which was served via formal diplomatic channels upon Ghana in May 2022.  With the award debt unpaid in the meantime, it applied in March 2023 for charging orders in respect of five properties.  Interim charging orders were granted without notice and service was effected by alternative method (post and email) pursuant to permission separately granted by Mr Justice Robin Knowles CBE.

Ghana applied to set aside such permission on the basis that an application seeking post-judgment execution process (i) fell within section 12(1) of the State Immunity Act 1978 (“other document required to be served for instituting proceedings”) in light of the Supreme Court decision in General Dynamics v. State of Libya [2021] UKSC 22; [2022] AC 318; alternatively (ii) fell to be served via diplomatic channels pursuant to CPR 6.44 and there was insufficient reason to permit service by alternative method pursuant to CPR 6.15 or CPR 6.27.

GPGC subsequently applied for a receivership order in respect of one of the five properties and related leasehold interests.  The challenge to service was treated as applicable to this further application.

A hearing was listed for one day before Master Davison to deal with this challenge on 29 September 2023.  The Master dismissed the challenge for reasons set out in a reserved judgment.  In short:

  1. an application for post-judgment execution process was not “required to be served for instituting proceedings” within the meaning of s.12(1): Judgment [11]-[15];
  2. such application or any order made upon it does not fall within CPR 6.44, which rule is coterminous with s.12(1) itself: Judgment [16]-[18]; and
  3. even if CPR 6.44 applied to such “other document”, there was good reason to permit service by alternative method (post and email) in the circumstances of the present case, including the fact that Ghana had a year earlier been served via diplomatic channels with the arbitral enforcement order.

Master Davison refused Ghana permission to appeal, but allowed it to seek permission direct from the Court of Appeal pursuant to CPR 52.23(1)

A copy of the judgment can be found here.

James Willan KC and Catherine Jung appeared for GPGC, instructed by Chris Bailey of Stephenson Harwood LLP.

Stephen Houseman KC and Luke Tattersall appeared for Ghana, instructed by Swati Tripathi of White & Case LLP.