Claim No: SCT 358/2021
THE DUBAI INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL CENTRE COURTS
IN THE SMALL CLAIMS TRIBUNAL OF DIFC COURTS
ORDER WITH REASONS OF H.E. JUSTICE NASSIR AL NASSER
UPON the Defendant’s Acknowledgment of Service dated 23 March 2022 setting out its intention to contest the jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts (the “Defendant’s Jurisdictional Challenge”)
AND UPON this Claim having been called for a Jurisdiction Hearing before H.E. Justice Nassir Al Nasser on 7 April 2022, with the Claimant’s and the Defendant’s representatives in attendance
AND UPON the Order of SCT Judge and Registrar Ayesha Bin Kalban dated 8 April 2022 imposing a stay upon this claim pending an investigation of alleged fraud led by the General Department of Forensic Science and Criminology at Dubai Police
AND UPON reviewing the report produced by the General Department of Forensic Science and Criminology at Dubai Police Report dated 5 September 2022 (the “Report”)
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
1. The Defendant’s Jurisdictional Challenge is denied.
2. The DIFC Courts have jurisdiction to hear and determine this claim.
3. The stay on these proceedings shall be lifted.
Date: 15 September 2022
SCHEDULE OF REASONS
1. The Claimant is Lutune (the “Claimant”), a company located and registered in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
2. The Defendant is Lacti (the “Defendant”), a company registered in the DIFC, Dubai, UAE
3. On 22 December 2021, the Claimant filed a claim in the DIFC Courts Small Claims Tribunal (the “SCT”) seeking financial dues allegedly owed to the Claimant by the Defendant in relation to an agreement entered into between the parties dated 12 July 2018 (the “First Agreement”)
4. On 23 March 2022, the Defendant filed its Acknowledgment of Service contesting the jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts.
5. A jurisdiction hearing was duly listed before me on 7 April 2022 at which the Claimant’s and the Defendant’s representatives appeared.
6. The Defendant submits that the First Agreement has been forged by the Claimant stipulating that it had signed with the Defendant using the knowledge of the authorised signatory of the Defendant, Mr. Lirut, to give credibility to the forged document that was presented to the Court. The Defendant also submits that it is merely a ‘holding and management office’ and as such has not entered into any signed agreements with vendors nor merchants.
7. In support of its Jurisdictional Challenge, the Defendant submitted an agreement dated 12 July 2018 that appears to be signed by the Claimant and Lrta, a company registered in Singapore (the “Second Agreement”). The Defendant argues that the Second Agreement is to be treated as the relevant agreement for the purposes of this dispute at hand. The Defendant draws the Court’s attention to clause 14 of the Second Agreement which sets out the governing law and jurisdiction. I have set out the relevant clause below:
“14.1 This Agreement shall be construed in accordance with and be governed by the law of Singapore and the rules and regulations as published by Litin from time to time.
14.2 if any dispute, claim, controversy or difference (including in relation to any tortious or statutory claim) (“dispute”) arises out or in connection with or in relation to this Agreement, the parties irrevocably agree that the Courts of Singapore are to have jurisdiction to settle any dispute, which may arises out of or in connection with this Agreement, and the parties irrevocably submit to the jurisdiction of such Courts…”
8. The Defendant submits that it is not a party to the Second Agreement and further relies on the above clause to demonstrate that the parties to the Second Agreement have elected for the Courts of Singapore to hear and determine this dispute.
9. The Claimant refutes the Defendant’s allegations above and submits that the only relevant agreement to the dispute at hand is the First Agreement, as signed by the Claimant and the Defendant.
10. Following the Defendant’s allegation of forgery (as set out at paragraph 6 above), on 8 April 2022, I ordered that this claim be stayed pending an investiagtion to be led by the General Department of Forensic Science and Criminology at Dubai Police (the “Investigation”). Consequently, SCT Judge and Registrar Ayesha Bin Kalban issued an order imposing a stay upon this claim pending the outcome of the Investigation.
11. On 5 September 2022, I received a report prepared by the General Department of Forensic Science and Criminology at Dubai Police detailing the outcome of the Investigation (the “Report”).
12. Upon review of the Report, it is clear to me that Dubai Police have concluded that there is no finding of forgery and that Mr. Lirutwas the relevant person to sign the First Agreement on behalf of the Defendant, Lacti
13. In light of the finding above, I am of the view that the First Agreement between the Claimant and the Defendant shall be treated as binding upon the parties.
14. Rule 53.2 of the Rules of the DIFC Courts (“RDC”) requires that the SCT hear only cases that fall “within the jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts”. The jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts is determined by Article 5(A) of the Judicial Authority Law, Dubai Law No. 12 of 2004, as amended (the “JAL”), which provides a number of limited gateways through which the DIFC Courts have jurisdiction over a claim, which are, as relevant:
“(a) Civil or commercial claims and actions to which the DIFC or any DIFC Body, DIFC Establishment or Licensed DIFC Establishment is a party;
(b) Civil or commercial claims and actions arising out of or relating to a contract or promised contract, whether partly or wholly concluded, finalised or performed within DIFC or will be performed or is supposed to be performed within DIFC pursuant to express or implied terms stipulated in the contract;
(c) Civil or commercial claims and actions arising out of or relating to any incident or transaction which has been wholly or partly performed within DIFC and is related to DIFC activities; . . .
(e) Any claim or action over which the Courts have jurisdiction in accordance with DIFC Laws and DIFC Regulations. . .
. . . civil or commercial claims or actions where the parties agree in writing to file such claim or action with [the DIFC Courts] whether before or after the dispute arises, provided that such agreement is made pursuant to specific, clear and express provisions.”
15. For cases to be heard in the SCT, first, they must first fall within the DIFC Courts’ jurisdiction by engaging any of the jurisdictional gateways set out in the abovementioned Article.
16. Upon review of the case file and the submissions contained therein, I find that the Defendant (being a party to the First Agreement) is a company registered within the DIFC, and, therefore satisfies the jurisdictional gateway requirements of Article 5(A)(a) of the JAL.
17. In light of the above, it must follow that the Defendant’s Jurisdictional Challenge is denied.
18. The DIFC Courts have jurisdiction to hear and determine this claim.
19. The stayed imposed upon this Claim shall be lifted.