The Technology and Construction Court in Honeywell International Middle East Ltd v Meydan Group LLC [2014] EWHC 1344 (TCC) has dismissed an application to set aside an order giving permission to enforce a New York Convention (NYC) award under s 103, Arbitration Act 1996 (the AA).

The judgment demonstrates a strict approach to applications to set aside permission to enforce an award and the dangers of non-participation in an arbitration.

The facts

Meydan contracted with Honeywell to complete a ELV system at the Dubai Meydan Racecourse. On 15 July 2010, Honeywell commenced DIAC arbitration proceedings against Meydan for overdue payments, non-issue of payment certificates and under-certification. Meydan did not participate in the arbitration despite consistently being given opportunity to do so. On 1 March 2012 the tribunal awarded Honeywell AED73,323,272.44 and costs of AED3,757,000.00.

Akenhead J gave permission to enforce the award in England in the same manner as a judgment under s 101(2), AA. Meydan applied to set aside the order and Ramsey J gave directions for a hearing to consider whether Meydan's application could be determined summarily or whether a final hearing was needed.

Meydan's grounds for resisting enforcement under s 103, AA were that the award:

  • was not valid under UAE law because the contract was procured by Honeywell bribing public servants;
  • was not valid because Meydan was deprived of the opportunity to nominate an arbitrator
  • dealt with a claim not contemplated by the request for arbitration
  • is suspended by a competent authority in the UAE
  • treats matters not arbitrable under UAE law
  • enforcement would be contrary to UK public policy

The decision

Section 103, AA is based on the grounds set out in art V, NYC. Ramsey J noted: 'the intention of the NYC … is that the grounds for refusing recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards should be applied restrictively' (see Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration). See further Ramsey J's comments at [69].

Ramsey J reviewed Meydan's grounds for resisting enforcement and concluded that Meydan did not have a real prospect of successfully establishing the ground under s 103, AA. He dismissed the application to set aside the order giving permission to enforce the award as a judgment without holding a full hearing.

Comment

Ramsey J opines that the courts should generally be able to decide whether the grounds for refusing enforcement are made out without a full hearing. This reduces the ability of an arbitration award debtor to delay enforcement by invoking tenuous grounds under s 103, AA. Ramsey J repeatedly rejects grounds which could have been raised by Meydan during the arbitration proceedings. The judgment also offers a salutary warning to parties trying to evade enforcement of an award.