Conyers Dill & Pearman

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The extent of BVI court’s discretion under section 3(1) of the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act

On 30 April 2014, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Court of Appeal was asked to determine the scope of the court’s discretion under section 3(1) the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act 1922. The appeal was by Mr Ablyazov against the BVI Commercial Court judge’s refusal to set aside or vary two orders registering judgments obtained by JSC BTA Bank against him in the Commercial Court in England. This latest battle in the Court of Appeal represents continuing efforts by the bank to recover from Mr Ablyazov billions of dollars in losses caused by his fraudulent misappropriation of the bank’s assets while acting as its chairman.

The judgments required Mr Ablyazov to pay in excess of $2bn (£1.2bn) in damages to the bank and there was no question of same being registrable under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act. Mr Ablyazov, at the time of his application to set aside the registration of the judgments, had started the process of appealing to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Mr Ablyazov’s argument in the court below that his appeal to the ECtHR was an appeal of the English judgments was described as ‘unsustainable’ and was resoundingly rejected by the commercial judge. That finding was never appealed and rightly so.

Section 3(1) provides that where a judgment has been obtained in the High Court in England, Northern Ireland or in the Court of Session in Scotland, the judgment creditor may apply to the High Court at any time within 12 months after the date of judgment to have the judgment registered. On any such application, the court may order registration if in all the circumstances of the case they think it is just and convenient that the judgment should be enforced in the territory…

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