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High Court confirms jurisdiction over claims relating to Sloane Avenue property transaction involving Vatican government department

07.12.21

The Commercial Court has confirmed that the English court has and should exercise jurisdiction over the claimants’ claims for declaratory relief relating to the transaction whereby the defendant, the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, an emanation of the Vatican State, obtained total ownership of the property at 60 Sloane Avenue, London. The court thereby rejected the defendant’s application challenging the jurisdiction of the English court.

In specific rejection of the defendant’s arguments, the court held that the claim was a “civil and commercial” matter within the meaning of the Brussels Recast Regulation (EU 1215/2012) (“BRR”) and thus fell within the scope of the BRR. It also confirmed that effect should be given to the English court jurisdiction clauses in the relevant agreements, concluding that the English court had mandatory jurisdiction under Article 25 of the Regulation (following Ness Global Services Ltd v Perform Content Services Ltd [2021] 1 WLR 4146).

Importantly also, the court followed existing High Court authority (Standard Steamship Owners Protection and Indemnity Association (Bermuda) Limited v GIE Vision Bail and others [2005] Lloyd’s Rep IR 407) to the effect that if an agent specially agrees a jurisdiction clause, and it is within the agent’s actual or ostensible authority to do so, that binds the principal for the purpose of Article 25.

The court also rejected the defendant’s further arguments that the proceedings had no real prospect of success, were an interference with criminal proceedings in the Vatican, offended principles of comity and were an abuse of the process of the English court. The court also rejected the defendant’s application for a stay of the English proceedings until the conclusion of criminal proceedings in the Vatican, and instead ordered a stay with liberty to the parties to apply to remove it in the event of a material change of circumstances with materiality to be judged by reference to the reasons in the judgment.

Charles Samek QC led Tetyana Nesterchuk of Fountain Court Chambers, instructed by Withers LLP, acting for the claimants.

A copy of the judgment can be accessed here.

https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Comm/2021/3166.html

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