The English Court has made an order sentencing the director and shareholder of a company operating from China to 18 months' imprisonment for failing to comply with a disclosure order made ancillary to a Worldwide Freezing Order against the company in Bunge S.A. v Huaya Maritime Corporation of the Marshall Islands and Mr Zhu Gho Hua [2017] EWHC 90 (Comm), published on 27 January 2017. The Worldwide Freezing Order was granted by the English courts after the respondent company, Huaya Maritime Corporation, failed to satisfy an award made against is in a London-seated arbitration (over which the English courts have supervisory jurisdiction).

The individual against whom the committal order has been obtained, Mr Hua, evidently thought that he could escape the consequences of the arbitration award and the freezing order by staying away from the UK; at least that is what he is said to have commented to a shipping broker. Mr Hua was warned several times about the consequences of failing to ensure that the company he owned and controlled complied with the freezing and disclosure orders, including being given a further opportunity to comply when the judge adjourned the hearing to allow the applicants to correct some irregularities with the documents which were served.

The usual requirement for personal service was waived by the judge, following evidence that email and courier service had been affected, and Mr Hua was well aware of the orders and the consequences of ignoring them. Mr Hua will now be liable to be imprisoned if he steps inside the jurisdiction. It is a cautionary tale for those who think they are immune to the long arm of the English courts.