England and Wales High Court of Justice, 6 June 2018, Nori Holdings Limited, Centimila Services Limited and Coniston Management Limited v. Public Joint-Stock Company “Bank Otkritie Financial Corporation”, [2018] EWHC 1343 (Comm)

Nori Holdings Limited and Centimila Services Limited, the first and second Claimants respectfully, are Cypriot-incorporated companies. Coniston Management Limited, the third Claimant, is a BVI registered company. Bank Otkritie Financial Corporation, Defendant, is a licensed Russian bank (“Bank”). The abovementioned entities entered into numerous financial agreements, which contained different arbitration clauses.

During Defendant’s temporary administration, aimed at preventing bankruptcy, the administrator initiated proceedings before the Moscow Arbitrazh Court in order to invalidate certain agreements. Claimants, it their turn, started an LCIA arbitration. Both Claimants and Defendant commenced proceedings in Cyprus, the former in support of the LCIA arbitration and the latter, alleging that certain transactions were a result of a fraudulent conspiracy, against Claimants and nine others.

Before the English court, Claimants requested an anti-suit injunction restraining the further proceedings initiated by Defendant in Russia and in Cyprus against them.

The High Court of Justice partially rules in favour of Claimants.

First, it examines the allegations of the Bank, which argued that this request should have been made only to the LCIA arbitral tribunal. On this issue, the High Court of Justice upholds its concurring jurisdiction to grant the relief sought by Claimants. Second, considering whether the dispute is arbitrable, it emphasizes that the substance should override the form and rejects the allegation of non-arbitrability of the present dispute. Third, with the regard to the Cypriot proceedings, the High Court of Justice accepts the defense based on the decision of the CJEU in West Tankers Inc v Allianz SpA. The anti-suit injunction related to these proceedings is therefore refused. Forth, no strong reasons are found in the case preventing the Court from giving the requested relief.

Therefore, Defendant must discontinue the Russian proceedings and is precluded from starting new proceedings against Claimants seeking the same relief form a national jurisdiction outside the European Union or a party to the Lugano Convention.

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