Yesterday's High Court ruling overturning an arbitration award of more than $11bn against the government of Nigeria has been hailed as a 'historic result' and a 'cornerstone' of international efforts to fight corruption.
Ruling for the government of Nigeria, Mr Justice Knowles found that oil company Process & Industrial Developments Limited had obtained the 2015 award 'only by practising the most severe abuses of the arbitral process'.
Shaistah Akhtar, a partner at London firm Mishcon de Reya, who led Nigeria’s legal team, said the judgment was a ‘historic result for Nigeria and its people’. She added: ‘The Nigerian government’s resolve in pursuing a just outcome led to it uncovering overwhelming evidence of bribery and corruption. We trust that this landmark decision will deter other potential fraudsters and their backers from exploiting the legal system in the pursuit of monetary gain.'
Leigh Crestohl, partner at specialist international arbitration and litigation firm Zaiwalla & Co, said: ‘For the international community, the message should be that the institutions of all nations must not waver in their efforts to root out historic corruption no matter how long ago, and how difficult the task is.’
The ruling will raise questions about the role of London-based lawyers in the arbitration. The judge said he would be referring his 140-page judgment to both the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board after finding that a solicitor and barrister had been provided with ‘many’ internal legal documents during the course of arbitration. Solicitor Seamus Andrew and barrister Trevor Burke KC denied any wrongdoing.
Spotlight on Corruption’s senior legal researcher Dr Helen Taylor said: ‘The court’s damning findings about the conduct of London-based lawyers will weigh heavily on those who care about the integrity of our legal system. There must be further scrutiny of the role played by these lawyers and proper accountability for any professional misconduct that may have compromised the London arbitration.’
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