Our readers would be aware that we have written a fair bit on the Astro-Lippo dispute, including the background of the dispute, what the dispute tells us about enforcement in arbitration as well as the parties’ skirmishes before the Hong Kong and Indonesian courts.
On 9 September 2013, Astro announced that its appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court had failed. This appeal was against the Central Jakarta District Court’s refusal to issue a writ of execution (exequatur) to enforce the arbitration awards which the Astro group had obtained in their favour against the Lippo group. According to the announcement, the Indonesian Supreme Court had dismissed Astro’s appeal on the grounds, amongst others, that the awards are:
(a) contrary to public order;
(b) amount to interference with Indonesian judicial process; and
(c) violate the principles of the State and legal sovereignty of Indonesia.
For those keeping score, Indonesia is thus far the only jurisdiction which has outrightly refused to enforce the awards. While Lippo had made an application to resist the recognition and enforcement of the awards in Hong Kong, that application had been stayed pending Lippo’s application to set aside the awards in Singapore. Furthermore, one of the Lippo group’s entities (AcrossAsia) is subject to a garnishee order from the Hong Kong High Court. The garnishee order had been upheld by the Hong Kong Court of Appeal (see also the subsequent judgment of the Hong Kong High Court here).
In Singapore, the High Court has upheld the arbitrations awards and Lippo’s appeal has been heard in the Singapore Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal’s judgment remains pending. As we have previously noted,
“[The High Court’s decision] confirms the Singapore judiciary’s attitude in support of international arbitration, the enforcement of arbitral awards and party autonomy. This is entirely in line with the pro-arbitration stance of the Singapore Government as well. As the High Court noted (see paragraph ), “[t]he pro-arbitration stance taken by the [Singapore International Arbitration Act] privileges party autonomy and the finality of awards, and espouses limited curial intervention”.”
In this regard, we are informed that Mr Chou Sean Yu of WongPartnership, counsel for Astro, has stated in respect of the Indonesian Supreme Court’s judgment that:
“The New York Convention is intended to facilitate recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards made in the territory of other signatory states. Indonesia is signatory to the New York Convention. It is widely recognised that many corporations intending to invest in Indonesia have chosen arbitration, including under the SIAC, as the legal recourse should legal disputes arise. The Supreme Court of Indonesia’s recent decision is disappointing as it would appear to run counter to the principles of the New York Convention. It may give rise to the perception that Indonesia is not arbitration-friendly and foreign arbitral awards are difficult to enforce in Indonesia, which in turn would affect the investment climate in Indonesia.”