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Writ of control against international organisation set aside


Sindicato Unico De Pescadores Del Municipio Miranda Del Estado Zulia v International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund

On 11 June 2015, Picken J set aside a writ of control (formerly known as a writ of fieri facias) issued against the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund.

The International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund 1992 (the “1992 Fund”) is an international organisation headquartered in London under the terms of a Headquarters Agreement with the UK Government, the terms of which are incorporated into English law by an Order in Council made under the International Organisations Act 1968. The 1992 Fund is a different and separate organisation from the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund 1971 (the “1971 Fund”), which was dissolved at the end of 2014.

The Claimant is a Venezuelan fisherman’s union. In September 2009 it obtained a judgment for the equivalent of about £50 million against the 1971 Fund in Venezuela.  On 18 March 2015, it registered that judgment as a judgment of the High Court of England and Wales against the “International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund” pursuant to registration provisions applicable to the 1992 Fund. It being unclear whether the registration order was directed against the 1971 Fund or the 1992 Fund, the 1992 Fund applied for a declaration that it was immune from the Court’s jurisdiction and/or that the registration order should be set aside.

However on 5 June 2015 a Notice of Enforcement was delivered to the offices of the 1992 Fund, stating that a Writ of Control had been obtained in relation to the registered judgment, and that if no payment was received an enforcement agent would “take control” (i.e. seek to seize the judgment debtor’s belongings). The 1992 Fund immediately applied to have the writ discharged, on the basis that it had been obtained in violation of CPR 74.9(1) (which prohibits enforcement steps being taken while an application to set aside is extant) and because the 1992 Fund is immune from the Court’s jurisdiction.

Picken J granted that application and discharged the writ. The 1992 Fund’s application to set aside the registered judgment is listed to be heard in July 2015.

Jonathan Hirst QC and Oliver Jones appeared for the 1992 Fund.