The PIFFS v Al Wazzan litigation continues with disclosure order viz Swiss-held documents under English CPR, with consideration of prosecution risks under Swiss law.

I reported earlier on the jurisdictional issues in a case where PIFSS brings claims for sums totalling in the region of US$874 million, arising from the alleged corruption between 1994 and 2014 of its former Director General. In The Public Institution for Social Security v Al Wazzan & Ors [2023] EWHC 1065 (Comm), Henshaw J held early May that documents held in Switzerland must be disclosed, in application of disclosure rules under English civil procedure.

The disclosure concerns a large file of documents held by the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office (SFPO)  arising from its investigations of Mr Al Rajaan and Ms Al Wazzan (Mr Al Rajaan’s widow) since 2012, and other documents held by Swiss-based entities or individuals, or located in Switzerland, or originating from and obtained under compulsion in Switzerland.

Disclosure was ordered, with a small caveat [161] which will see future specific measures (eg restriction of disclosure to counsel) be taken to ensure disclosure of the SFPO file documents to PIFSS does not create a risk of transmission to the State of Kuwait, which in turn might be viewed as sidestepping the State of Kuwait’s pending Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) request to Switserland for the purpose of the continuing criminal proceedings in Kuwait.

Justice Henshaw’s lengthy considerations do justice to two restraints on disclosure, under English CPR for use in English proceedings. The principal approach is [43 ff; and [47] in particular with reference to Bank Mellat v HM Treasury [2019] EWCA Civ 449] that questions of disclosure and inspection are part of the law of procedure and are therefore matters of English law as the lex fori ; duties of confidentiality (which, if breached, may result in sanction) arising under foreign law do not provide an automatic basis to withhold disclosure and inspection. They are a matter for the judge’s discretion, and disclosure is only not ordered where the party shows that the foreign law is regularly enforced, so that the risk of prosecution is real.

[51] the judge holds that comity considerations are an independent element to consider, and in the process refers to its neat definition in Dicey’s 16th ed § 7-002:

The United [States] Supreme Court famously said in Hilton v Guyot, a case on the recognition of foreign judgments: “‘Comity,’ in the legal sense, is neither a matter of absolute obligation, on the one hand, nor of mere courtesy and good will, upon the other. But it is the recognition which one nation allows within its territory to the legislative, executive, or judicial acts of another nation, having due regard both to international duty and convenience, and to the rights of its own citizens or of other persons who are under the protection of its laws.

An interesting judgment raising several relevant issues (including one side-issue on the tardiness of the Hague Taking of Evidence rules).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: