Sunday, July 25, 2010
Is a muscular indepedent judiciary coming to a self-legislating financial free zone near you? Inshallah.
In my last post I suggested that Bisher Barazi get out of town because the DIFCI counter-claim reads more like a vendetta than a defence against his lawsuit to recover his severance pay. It looks like he agrees and according to The National, a respected paper in Abu Dhabi, he has sent his family home to Syria and has himself asked the judge to lift the travel ban on him so that he can defend himself from the comfort and relative safety of Damascus. The judge said no dice. This is a little interesting to me because the judge in this case seems to be adjudicating remotely as well as he conducted the hearing from London by video link. This is of particular interest because the DIFC is qualified to hear commercial disputes only. It can only fine and censure its members, it has no criminal authority and therefore cannot imprison Bisher. It can however refer criminal cases to the Dubai courts for adjudication and enforcement. We may be seeing a preview of coming attractions in the DIFC court’s refusal to allow him to leave, which is of course all the more reason for him to do so.
Additionally he has been asked to detail all his assets and sources of income in the UAE. Still more interesting he is required to demonstrate that he actually owned the villa he just sold. This seems a little odd because presumably the buyer would have also checked that he was buying the villa from the actual owner before handing over the cash no? I think I know what the judge is after in this case. When I was in Dubai I heard a lot of rumors about expat civil servants being paid under the table by the various organizations that employed them with certain high value gifts like villas, cars, and everyone’s favourite: off plan real estate. I imagine that in Dubai proper this is not a big deal but given how much emphasis is being placed on “unlawful compensation” on the former management of the DIFC I think this policy, if indeed it took place, is going to get a lot of scrutiny. If Bisher did receive extra undocumented compensation from the DIFC he is almost certainly not the only person to have done so. It will be a cliff-hanger for everyone else living in gift homes as well. My guess is that more than a few people will be watching the Barazi-DIFC litigation with their real estate agent on hold and their travel agent on speed dial.
Most importantly of all, they will get to watch it. The DIFC Court ruled against a request from both parties to close the hearing to the public. Having had my hopes for the DIFC dashed repeatedly I am wary of reading too much into this but I think it might be significant. Firstly, as a point of journalistic honor I have to concede that as with the ESCA ruling on Aabar, I have perhaps taken too dim a view of the DIFC courts and described them as a tool of Sheikh Mohammed in his quest to punish Dr. O and Bisher. But now the DIFC courts have denied two requests from the government: 1.) that the trial be conducted in secret, and 2.) that they cripple Bisher’s capacity to fund his defence by demanding a 500,000 AED deposit. It may not be a first but having a court in the GCC deny a request of an agent of The Ruler is pretty unusual. Is it possible that we are seeing the creation of a independent judiciary in the DIFC? This will indeed be an interesting court case to watch.
Inshallah the Abdullah Brothers will get their day in court as well if the DFSA ever musters the thrasos to take them on.