Foreign Director Can't Escape English Jurisdiction

In a ruling which powerfully confirmed the extra-territorial reach of the English courts, the Court of Appeal has opened the way for civil proceedings for contempt of court to be brought against the managing director of two overseas companies despite the fact that he is both a foreign national and lives abroad.

The companies, based in the Middle East, were engaged in a dispute with an English firm against which they had obtained a 'without-notice injunction' (an injunction which the court agrees is appropriate to be issued without the usual notice being given to the person against whom the injunction is taken out). The order was granted when the companies agreed that they would preserve two computer hard drives and deliver them to their solicitors in London.

The injunction was subsequently withdrawn after the judge found that the companies had failed to comply with the undertakings and had breached their duty to make a 'full and frank' disclosure. In those circumstances, the firm was granted permission to issue proceedings against the companies and their managing director.

Whilst not disputing that he was the corporate officer responsible for the breaches of the undertakings, the managing director challenged that decision on the basis that he was a foreign national and resided outside the jurisdiction of the English court.

The Court of Appeal rejected his appeal: it was not swayed by arguments that it would be impracticable to enforce any committal order against a foreign director living outside the UK.

Much of the commercial litigation taking place in England and Wales has an international dimension and the courts are not chary of enforcing rulings under English law when it is appropriate to do so.

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