Essex Court silks gear up for Singaporean court battle

Essex Court Chambers’ Toby Landau QC and David Joseph QC will go head-to-head at the Singaporean High Court next week in a mammoth $300m legal battle for Malaysian tycoon Ananda Krishnan and the Indonesian conglomerate Lippo Group.

It is the first time British QCs have been allowed to conduct advocacy in the Singaporean Court since the enactment of the Singaporean Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill in February (15 February 2012). Sources close to the case said it had been eight years since a silk had been instructed inside a Singapore court room.

The corporate face-off will be closely watched across Asia as enforcement orders granted by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) are put to the test by the Singaporean court.

Krishnan, Malaysia’s second-richest man, has control of Astro All-Asia Networks, which in February 2010 secured arbitration orders totalling $300m against subsidiaries of the Lippo Group, including First Media, in a fight over a joint venture gone wrong.

Landau has been instructed by Braddell Brothers partner Edmund Kronenburg to challenge the order for the Lippo Group.

Joseph, meanwhile, has been instructed by Wong Partnership partners Chou Sean Yu and Lim Wei Lee for the respondents, Astro All-Asia Networks.

The five-year battle between the juggernauts has been bitter, with allegations of criminal wrongdoings levelled against Astro’s top executives by the Lippo Group. In May, Astro said such allegations were unsubstantiated.

Astro has registered arbitration awards in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia but needs to secure enforcement awards from the domestic courts before proceeding to seize the assets of the Lippo Group.

Astro has also gone to Hong Kong courts to enforce its award there over a $44m loan made by First Media to its controlling shareholder AcrossAsia. The hearing is set down for 3 August.

Landau took silk in 2008 and is considered among the best arbitration specialists at the bar. Last year he was instructed to appear for the International Chambers of Commerce by Allen & Overy alongside Matrix Chambers’ Thomas Linden QC in the landmark Jivraj v Hashwani dispute (1 August 2011).

Joseph took silk in 2003 and is also highly regarded in arbitration circles. He is one of several silks at Essex Court to have taken rooms at Singapore’s Maxwell Chambers. Essex Court was among the first of the commercial sets to take rooms in Singapore, unveiling a move in June 2009 (22 June 2009).

The jurisdiction is becoming increasingly popular with London’s advocates, with 39 Essex Street and One Essex Court both announcing office openings in the region in coming months (26 June 2012).