It is a mark of the international business community’s confidence in the English legal system that a great many cases that have little apparent connection to this country are nevertheless heard here. However, as a High Court ruling showed, there are occasions when it is right for English judges to step away.
A Thai company alleged that one of its shareholders had used forged documents to take out loans worth £4.4 million in its name, primarily for the benefit of himself and members of his family. Proceedings that the company had lodged against him in England had been on foot for almost five years.
The shareholder applied for the English proceedings to be stayed on the basis that Thailand was clearly and distinctly the appropriate forum where the trial of the action should take place. Resisting a stay, however, the company argued, amongst other things, that he had long since submitted to English jurisdiction.
Ruling on the matter, the Court noted the lengthy procedural history of the claim in this country and the very substantial costs that the company had already incurred. The shareholder had assets in this country and the company argued that it would suffer serious prejudice if his late application were granted.
On the other hand, the claim arose from transactions between a Thai company and a Thai lender that were said to involve unlawful acts under Thai law. Key witnesses were also in Thailand. A number of claims relating to the loans had been lodged against the shareholder in Thailand, one of which was essentially the same as the claim being pursued in England.
The Court noted that the company’s claims against several other defendants, which were expected to be tried in England, had been struck out due to a failure to provide security for costs. Despite the delay in the shareholder making his application and his previous submission to English jurisdiction, the Court found that the balance came down in favour of granting the stay sought. A worldwide freezing order in respect of his assets was, however, maintained in force.