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Mishcon de Reya acts for the Federal Republic of Nigeria in landmark ruling successfully challenging $11 billion arbitration award

Posted on 23 October 2023

Almost three years after securing an unprecedented extension of time to proceed with its substantive fraud challenge, the English Court has today handed down a landmark judgment confirming that Nigeria has been successful in challenging the colossal $11 billion award made against Nigeria in 2017. Mr Justice Knowles CBE found that P&ID (the BVI registered entity that had obtained the arbitration award against Nigeria) had obtained the award "only by practising the most severe abuses of the arbitral process".

The Judge found that P&ID, and certain individuals associated with it, had committed bribery throughout the arbitration, had submitted and relied on knowingly false evidence, and had corruptly and improperly obtained and utilised Nigeria's internal legal documents to benefit its own position in the arbitration. After several years of hard-fought legal proceedings, this is a hugely important decision for the people of Nigeria given the significant financial implications that the enforcement of a judgment this size would have had on the Nigerian economy. It also serves as notice to future litigants that Nigeria is taking a firm stance on attempts by fraudsters to cash-in through the use of spurious claims. The President of Nigeria Bola Tinubu has welcomed the judgment and commended the UK Court for prioritising the merits of the case above all other considerations.

Mr Justice Knowles CBE's decision follows the highly anticipated eight-week trial which commenced in January this year. The Court considered a wealth of documentary evidence presented to it on bribery, perjured evidence and collusion, including evidence obtained by Nigeria from applications it was forced to make in numerous offshore jurisdictions in light of P&ID's concerted efforts to conceal the fraud. The Court also heard the explanations given in cross-examination by seven of P&ID's factual witnesses, including by P&ID's sole surviving co-founder, Brendan Cahill, and two English lawyers, Trevor Burke KC and Seamus Andrew, both of whom were found to have been central to P&ID's fraudulent operation. 

Over the past four years, Mishcon de Reya has had the privilege of being instructed by Nigeria to further its tireless efforts to uncover the fraud and corruption perpetrated against it by P&ID.

Commenting on the ruling, Shaistah Akhtar, Partner at Mishcon de Reya who led Nigeria's legal team, said: "Today's judgment is a historic result for Nigeria and its people. The Nigerian Government's resolve in pursuing a just outcome led to it uncovering overwhelming evidence of bribery and corruption. We are pleased that the Judge recognised the severity of the fraud perpetrated against the people of Nigeria in his judgment, and trust that this landmark decision will deter other potential fraudsters and their backers from exploiting the legal system in the pursuit of monetary gain."

The English Court's judgment vindicates the anti-corruption campaign of former President Buhari's eight-year administration, and current President Tinubu's determined continuation of the fight which has led to this success.

President Bola Tinubu commented “This landmark judgment proves conclusively that nation states will no longer be held hostage by economic conspiracies between private firms and solitarily corrupt officials who conspire to extort and indebt the very nations they swear to defend and protect.

“Today’s victory is not for Nigeria alone. It is a victory for our long exploited continent and for the developing world at large, which has for too long been on the receiving end of unjust economic malpractice and overt exploitation.

“Nigeria is appreciative of the tremendous efforts of the defense team and acknowledges the role of the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Attorney-General in the process of defending Nigeria’s interest in this case.”

Shaistah Akhtar led the Mishcon de Reya team alongside Partners Andrew Short and Zachary Segal, supported by Associates Lydia Allaby, Sophia Louw, Holly Edmond, Himaansu Servansingh, Connor Morrison and Sharvani Jeya Putra.  

Instructed by Mishcon de Reya, the Counsel team was led by Mark Howard KC (Brick Court Chambers), supported by Philip Riches KC (Twenty Essex Chambers), Tom Ford (Essex Court Chambers), Tom Pascoe (Brick Court Chambers) and Sebastian Mellab (Essex Court Chambers).

Related coverage

Financial Times
Global Arbitration Review
African Law and Business
The Law Society Gazette
The Africa Report
New Law Journal
Global Legal Post
The Times
Law Society Gazette (ii)

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