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Widow and daughter of the late Israeli billionaire, Sami Shamoon, succeed in jurisdiction challenge

15/02/16

Mr Justice Henry Carr has today handed down judgment in Peretz Winkler v Angela Shamoon [2016] EWHC 2017 (Ch), a case which concerns the estate of the late Israeli businessman, Sami Shamoon.  Mr Shamoon owned and controlled the Yakhin Hakal Group of Israeli companies and was known in his lifetime as one of the wealthiest men in Israel.  The claim was brought by Mr Peretz Winkler, formerly the Chief Financial Officer and manager of Yakhin Hakal, against Mrs Angela Shamoon and Ms Alexandra Shamoon, the widow and daughter respectively of Mr Shamoon and the residuary legatees under his will. 

In his claim Mr Winkler alleged that prior to his death Mr Shamoon had orally promised to transfer to him certain shares worth tens of millions of dollars.  On the basis of the alleged promise Mr Winkler claimed declarations against Angela and Alexandra Shamoon as to his entitlement to the shares (which they are due to receive under Mr Shamoon's will).  Angela and Alexandra challenged the jurisdiction of the English Court to hear the claim on the basis that it was a matter relating to "succession" within article 1(2)(a) of the Brussels Regulation and therefore fell outside its scope (and that England was not the natural or appropriate forum for the dispute).  In addition, Mrs Shamoon contended that she was not domiciled in England for the purposes of Article 59 of the Brussels Regulation or, therefore, validly served here. Mr Winkler contested both points and also alleged that, in any event, by taking certain limited steps in the proceedings before issuing their jurisdiction challenge, the claimants had submitted to the jurisdiction. Mr Winkler also brought a protective application for permission to serve Mrs Shamoon out of the jurisdiction on the grounds that there was a claim against Ms Alexandra Shamoon to which, he alleged, Mrs Shamoon was a necessary and proper party.

In his judgment Mr Justice Carr declared that the English Court has no jurisdiction to hear the claim. In particular, the Judge held:

(1) The claim was one relating to “succession” and therefore fell outside the scope of the Brussels Regulation 44/2001 (and that, pursuant to English common law rules, England was not the natural or appropriate forum for the claim);

(2) Mrs Angela Shamoon was resident in Israel and not in England and was therefore not properly served within the jurisdiction; and 

(3) Angela and Alexandra Shamoon had not submitted to the jurisdiction of the English Court. 

The judge also considered the position in the event that he was wrong about the “succession” issue: on that basis, Mr Justice Carr dismissed the protective application to serve Mrs Shamoon out of the jurisdiction on the grounds that the Claim did not meet the requirements of the jurisdictional gateway in CPR PD 6B paragraph 3.1(3).  First, the Judge held that there was no claim with realistic prospects of success against Ms Alexandra Shamoon.  In this regard, the Judge rejected all of Mr Winkler's ways of formulating his claim as against Ms Shamoon, including (i) Mr Winkler’s attempted reliance upon the Re Rose principle (i.e. the exception to the general rule that equity will not complete a perfect gift), (ii) his alternative argument that Mr Shamoon had become an express trustee of the shares in favour of Mr Winkler and (iii) his further argument that a proprietary estoppel arose in favour of Mr Winkler by reason of alleged representations made by Alexandra after her father's death.  Further, applying the approach in Erste Group Bank AG (London) v JSC (VMZ Red October) [2015] EWCA Civ 379 per Gloster LJ at [37]-[38], the Judge held that even if he had concluded that there was a claim with realistic prospects of success against Ms Alexandra Shamoon, he would have concluded that it was not one which it was reasonable for the English court to try. 

Daniel Jowell QC and Tony Singla acted for Angela and Alexandra Shamoon, instructed by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan UK LLP.

A copy of the Judgment may be found here.