x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dubai World debt tribunal opens

More than 100 creditors and lawyers contact the Dubai World special tribunal about making a claim on debts they believe they are owed.

More than 100 creditors and lawyers have contacted the Dubai World special tribunal about making a claim on debts they believe they are owed as a part of the conglomerate's US$26 billion (Dh95.49bn) restructuring. Mark Beer, the registrar of the tribunal and of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts, said he was receiving "many inquires on a daily basis about the procedure in relation to filing with the tribunal".

"People are factoring the tribunal into their strategy," Mr Beer said. "They are preparing themselves." The tribunal has made available a raft of forms and other resources to help those who believe they are owed money to make a claim. The tribunal is "fully operational" and has been ready to receive claims since it was created in a special decree by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on December 13, he said.

Despite the inquiries, no claims have been filed yet, he said. "The tribunal is fully operational," Mr Beer said. "It has its members. It has its funding. It has its case management system." The tribunal has launched a website and is setting up an electronic-filing system to allow claimants to submit and receive official documents online. A lawyer who is representing potential claimants said the tribunal was proving that it was a serious venue for disputes with Dubai World.

"The reason they went to the trouble of setting it up was so they could use it, so this is consistent with what they've been saying in the past," he said. "It's good because they clearly want this tribunal to be effective for all people making claims. It would have been surprising if they hadn't done anything. It's a step in the right direction." Three judges from the DIFC Courts - Sir Anthony Evans, Michael Hwang and Sir John Chadwick - will preside over the tribunal.

The Dubai Government has already provided funding for the tribunal. It has two bank accounts, one for operations and one for holding funds in escrow. The tribunal will have access to the DIFC Courts, but it has also taken over three meeting rooms and a conference room next door to the courts. The DIFC Courts video conference system has been upgraded to have more lines to handle increased volumes, said.

The decree uses a combination of the DIFC insolvency law, which is based on British common law and aspects of US law, to allow Dubai World to be voluntarily restructured. "The Americans are well known for a restructuring system, which just operated in the case of General Motors," Sir Anthony said last month. "The idea is to restructure and continue, which is the opposite of liquidation." Under the provisions of the decree, Dubai World or any of its subsidiaries may file a "voluntary arrangement notice", which will automatically grant it 120 days to negotiate with creditors.

bhope@thenational.ae