City insurance boutique Elborne Mitchell has snared first-time instructions from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il.
The cash-strapped regime has sued London-based underwriters for £30m in outstanding reinsurance claims.
Elborne Mitchell reinsurance partner Timothy Akeroyd put the new client win down to the firm’s growing reputation in Asian countries such as China and Japan.
State-owned monopoly Korean National Insurance Corporation (KNIC) filed the claim in the UK High Court against several international insurance firms, led by German insurance giant Allianz Group, earlier this month.
The North Koreans argue that the reinsurers failed to pay out on a helicopter accident in 2005, when the chopper, which was rushing a pregnant woman to hospital, crashed and destroyed a Pyongyang warehouse containing emergency relief goods.
The North Korean court ordered that e44m (£29m) should be paid to KNIC to cover the insurance payout it made to the helicopter’s owner AirKoreo.
According to the reinsurance contract, the underwriter was under a strict liability to uphold any decision made in the North Korean jurisdiction. However, the defendants believe that asking for recompense in euros – a restricted currency in North Korea due to UN sanctions against Kim Jong-Il’s nuclear programme – would not be right.
Clyde & Co senior partner Michael Payton is acting for Allianz and the other co-defendants.