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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Law and Justice Barrister Farogh Naseem said on Wednesday that an out-of-court settlement with the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) was still not out of question.

Speaking at a presser a day after the High Court of Justice in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) retracted its earlier order of attaching Roosevelt Hotel in New York and Scribe Hotel in Central Paris with the enforcement of Reko Diq penalty on the request of the TCC, the minister said: “We told the TCC there won’t be any corruption this time”.

He said the TCC responded by saying that, “the assurance is music to the ears”, adding that at the international tribunal, the government had held the stance that the Reko Diq deal was a result of corruption.

He maintained that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had annulled the agreement due to that corruption, adding that a deal which is the outcome of corruption does not come under the ambit of legal investment.

Barrister Naseem highlighted that the BVI high court accepted the aspect regarding the sovereign exemption, which will help in resolving the original case.

He said that the TCC can file an appeal against the decision of the BVI till June 4.

“It is true that the BVI's decision is related to PIA hotels,” he said, adding that it is crucial in terms of giving our economy a support that our stance was approved in the court.

He noted that in the past, the tribunal’s ambit had been accepted only after a notice of mediation was received.

The minister congratulated the entire nation, especially Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Cabinet, for achieving success in the Reko Diq case.

“Pakistan was facing a penalty of $6.5 billion internationally in the Reko Diq case, besides other cases including the Karkey dispute,” he added.

In 2019, he stated, Prime Minister Imran Khan had appointed him as the chairman of the committee in the Reko Diq case, the minister said.

“When the prime minister entrusted me with the job, we went to the US and the UK and met the lawyers there…we replaced many lawyers,” he added.

He said that Anwar Mansoor Khan, Khalid Javed, and Ahmed Irfan Aslam made immense efforts to help resolve the case, adding that Ahmed Irfan Aslam was bestowed with Sitara-e-Imtiaz on the recommendations of the Law Ministry.

Earlier, while commenting on the decision, the spokesperson for the Law and Justice Ministry termed the decision a major victory for Pakistan.

Due to the verdict, he said, the country's assets of billions of rupees got saved from being auctioned or frozen.

“All decisions against the PIA have been withdrawn. Pakistan has got back [ownership of] Roosevelt and Scribe hotels due to the decision,” he added.

Pakistan effectively defended its stance against the plea filed by the TCC, which will now have to bear all the costs of the case, the spokesperson added.

On November 20th last year, the TCC had sought attachment of assets for the enforcement of the $6 billion award that the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) slapped on Pakistan on July 12, 2019, for revoking a mining contract in Reko Diq, Balochistan.

Despite the withdrawal of attachment orders by the BVI court, the $6 billion award against Pakistan stands intact.

The ICSID stayed the enforcement of the $6b penalty and on September 17 issued a 70-page order which said the stay would continue on a conditional basis.

The arbitrator ordered Pakistan to provide an “unconditional and irrevocable” bank guarantee or the letter of credit for 25 percent of the award, plus accrued interest as of the date of the decision.

The guarantee or letter of credit was to come from a reputable international bank based outside of Pakistan, which was pledged in favour of the claimant – the TCC – and to be released on the order of the ICSID.

The ICSID also held that if Islamabad could not furnish the security and undertaking in terms as set out within 30 days after notification of the decision, the stay of enforcement in the amount of 50 percent of the award, plus the accrued interest as of the date of the decision would be lifted.

However, Pakistan missed the deadline and did not deposit 25 percent bank guarantee.

APP adds: The minister said the Supreme Court of Pakistan had suspended the Reko Diq contract with the Tethyan Copper Company over charges of corruption.

If a contract was secured through corruption then it was not called an investment in the international law and usually the courts suspended such contracts, he added.

Dr Farogh said when the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government came into power in August 2018, it inherited a plethora of issues. The economy was in a shambles, while cases against huge awards given by international courts in the Reko Diq ($ 6.5 billion), Karkey dispute, Broadsheet and the Nizam of Hyderabad Deccan case were pending.

He said the Reko Diq case, where PIA's assets were attached by the BVI court for implementation of its verdict, was not resolved in one day. The PTI government adopted a strategy from the day one and the Law Ministry remained fully focused for the cause of the country.

Pakistan got a success in one battle and the government would continue its fight till its last day for winning other cases also, he added.

The minister also appreciated the cooperation of PIA Chairman Air Marshal Arshad Malik in the case.

He said the doctrine of sovereign immunity was an important point, which had been given up by the Pakistan People’s Party government in the Nizam of Hyderabad Deccan case.

He said he highlighted the sovereign immunity issue before the BVI court. The Law Ministry also engaged the Tethyan Copper Company and informed them that Imran Khan’s government would not allow anyone to mint money, he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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