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Key judgment reveals BVI court’s approach to jurisdiction in unfair prejudice claims

In a significant case handed down by the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Commercial Court on 1 May, Justice Bannister has given a clear indication of the approach that the BVI court will take to forum challenges in the context of claims for unfair prejudice under section 184I of the BVI Business Companies Act 2004 (BCA).

The Claim before the Commercial Court was brought by a PRC national who held a 30% interest in a BVI joint venture company, Nasbulk Limited (“the Company”). The remaining shareholder, also a BVI company, was nominee for a PRC company. The Company’s business was managed from Singapore and the Judge found that, apart from its place of incorporation, the closest connection which the Company had was with Singapore. 

A number of the joint venture documents included non‐exclusive jurisdiction clauses indicating the Courts of the PRC. Some also included Chinese choice of law clauses. The Judge found that there were powerful pointers to a desire between the parties to the joint venture for dispute resolution to take place in the PRC and that, but for the critical factor which the Judge went on to identify, the “natural forum” for the resolution of disputes between them arising out of the joint venture agreements was the Courts of the PRC…

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