India has appealed against an order by an international tribunal to pay $1.2 billion in damages, plus other costs, to Cairn Energy in a long-running tax dispute, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. London-listed Cairn in December was awarded damages of $1.2 billion-plus interest and costs, taking the current total to over $1.7 billion. India, which is now liable to make this payment, had said previously it would challenge the order.
The appeal, filed on Monday in a Dutch court, comes as Cairn is pulling out all the stops to recover the damages award, including hiring a team of asset recovery experts. It also comes weeks ahead of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to India to build deeper business ties.
India has appealed on the grounds that taxation-related matters are not covered in its bilateral investment treaty with the United Kingdom under which the case was filed, and therefore the arbitration tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to rule on the matter, one of the sources said. Cairn and India’s finance ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Cairn has already filed cases in local courts in the United States, UK, France, Netherlands, Singapore and Quebec to enforce the arbitration award, and there is likely to be more enforcement actions in other countries, Dennis Hranitzky, head of the sovereign litigation practice at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, a law firm representing the company, told Reuters.
This essentially means that once it obtains orders from the local courts, Cairn can identify and seize Indian assets, which could include bank accounts, Air India planes, and property of other Indian state-owned companies, he said.
“Cairn has appointed a team of the best asset-tracing and recovery experts in the business to collect against India,” Hranitzky said, adding that the company will do everything it takes to recover the full amount of the arbitral award if settlement discussions are not fruitful.
Cairn has said the money ultimately belongs to its shareholders – which include large investors such as BlackRock, Fidelity and Franklin Templeton, and the ramifications of India not honouring the award will “run across the international investment community more widely”.