The not-so-long arm of the law

Time for a revamp of the powers of the English courts? It is difficult, it seems, to get Norwich Pharmacal relief against people abroad. A Bangladeshi bank had an English claim in respect of the fraudulent abstraction of a cool $20 million from an account in a Dubai bank in which it had an interest. It sought relief against the bank to find out where the money had gone. The bank resisted, no doubt partly because UAE law took a poor view of breaches of bank secrecy. Teare J in AB Bank Ltd, Off-Shore Banking Unit (OBU) v Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC [2016] EWHC 2082 (Comm) decided that there was no proper gateway under CPR 6 for service out on the bank. It wasn’t an interim proceeding under s.25 CJJA 1982; the bank wasn’t a necessary and proper party; and because it didn’t matter to the claimant where it received the information it wasn’t a request for an order to do an act within the jurisdiction.

In this case not much harm was done: among other things even if it had been a possible case for service out there were insuperable objections to having the English courts tell foreign organisations abroad to break their own laws. But there is an arguable case for at least providing for the possibility of Norwich Pharmacal-style relief abroad. Those in charge of keeping the CPR up to date might care to make a note about this somewhere.

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