Blow to Mittal in Essar case
In a setback to ArcelorMittal, the Grand Court of Cayman Island has declined its plea for a “garnishee order” and a “freezing injunction” against Essar Global Fund, the parent firm of Essar Group of companies, for recovering a $1.5 billion arbitration award.
ArcelorMittal has mounted legal battles against the Ruia family in multiple countries in an effort to enforce a $1.5-billion US arbitration award it had won in December 2017 on an Essar Steel Minnesota’s terminated iron-ore pellets contract to ArcelorMittal USA LLC.
But Essar Steel, which had assumed the liabilities of the US contract, has said it could not pay. It now has less than $2.5 million in assets.
To seek the enforcement of the award, ArcelorMittal moved courts in Britain, Mauritius, and the Cayman Island seeking a “garnishee order absolute” and a “freezing injunction” and “Asset Disclosure Award” against Essar Global Fund Ltd (EGFL).
Justice Ian R.C. Kawaley in a 30-page order issued on July 2 declined the Garnishee Summons and the modified Freezing Order with the liberty to apply, according to a order of the copy.
“The application was not refused. The Court merely adjourned it given a connection to ongoing proceedings in Mauritius relating to debts owed by Essar Global Fund to Essar Steel,” a spokesperson of ArcelorMittal said.
“Once that issue is resolved in Mauritius, the application before the Cayman Island Court will be restored for a further hearing in due course,” the spokesperson said.
A garnishee order is a common form of enforcing a judgment debt against a creditor to recover money. Put simply, the court directs a third-party that owes money to the judgement debtor to instead pay the judgement creditor. The third-party is called a garnishee.
A garnishee order absolute prevents the garnishee from making a repayment of the debt owed to the judgement debtor.
The Cayman Island Court ruled that Arcelor’s case is far from straightforward and the existence of the alleged debt on the basis of which it had approached the Court is “sufficiently controversial”.
At the heart of the legal dispute is an arbitration award from an ICC Arbitration Tribunal sitting in Minnesota that Arcelor obtained against Essar Steel, a subsidiary of EGFL, in December 2017. Arcelor has no direct claims against EGFL. But it claims that ESL has certain receivables from EGFL.
ESL itself is under administration in Mauritius. The arbitral award was granted ex parte after ESL had withdrawn from the arbitration procedure on the basis of legal advice it had received.
With a South African court blocking Zambia’s plans to sell mines of Vedanta, the metals and mining company has welcomed the move stating that it is committed to resolving the current situation through arbitration.
“Vedanta welcomes the decision by judge (Leicester) Adams, and emphasises its commitment to resolve the current situation through arbitration,” Vedanta Resources has said in a statement.