Ruling on Lippo-Astro Case Due in 3 to 6 Months
Shoeb K. Zainuddin
Singapore. After three days of arguments in the Singapore High Court between Indonesia’s Lippo Group and Malaysia’s Astro All Asia Networks over the enforcement of a judgment issued by the Singapore International Arbitration Center, Justice Belinda Ang said she will reserve her judgment on the case.
The court is expected to announce its decision between three and six months from now.
Lawyer Toby Landau, representing Lippo affiliate First Media, the defendant in the case, asked the Court to rule in its favor. He said his client had expressed reservations against the arbitration proceedings — that sought a $300 million payment to Astro — and should not be subject to a three-month time limit for appeals.
He said SIAC did not have jurisdiction over the case because three of the plaintiffs — Astro All Asia Networks, Measat Broadcast Network Systems, and All Asia Multimedia Networks FZ-LLC — had not signed an arbitration agreement with First Media.
He added that since Singapore had adopted the Unictral Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, his client is entitled to challenge the judgment.
“What Astro says is that in Singapore, unlike all other Model Law jurisdictions, you have to raise [your objections] or you lose your rights. That is wrong,” Landau said.
In Hong Kong, another Model Law jurisdiction, First Media can wait for enforcement being sought before raising its objections. Because Singapore operates under a Model Law regime, First Media had the option to go to a Singapore court.
“A time limit cannot apply if you are defending because it depends on whether action is taken to enforce the judgment,” Landau added. “The other side may choose not to enforce. So when you unpick Astro’s case, there is nothing to say we are barred from taking up the issue. There is nothing that says we cannot come back to challenge, and we are challenging now.”
First Media lawyer Edmund Kronenburg also raised the issue of whether Astro properly served the enforcement order on his client. He challenged Astro’s assertion that because First Media had knowledge of the judgment, it was considered served.
For the SIAC award to be enforced, it had to be brought to a Singapore court and converted into an order. This was done by Astro, without First Media’s knowledge, thus depriving it of the opportunity to challenge, Kronenburg argued.
“Under Singapore law, the order must be served on the individual or company at the registered address,” he said. “FM has never avoided being served as it is still operating at its registered address.”
David Joseph, representing Astro, called on the court to enforce the judgment that had already been awarded to his client.
“You can only pursue arbitration under reservation until jurisdiction is disposed of in a final and binding award,” he said. “FM had 30 days to appeal and overturn the award. If you don’t you are stuck.”
The decision of the Singapore High Court may have repercussions on the decisions of foreign courts in which Astro is seeking to enforce the awards, because since the awards were made in Singapore, it gives the Singapore courts jurisdiction.
Singapore has promoted itself as an international arbitration center and this case is a litmus test of its credentials.
The case has been brought before the Singapore High Court by First Media, which has sought to challenge the arbitration tribunal’s jurisdiction to grant the award for damages, interest and costs to Astro All Asia Network.
The case centers on a failed joint venture between the Lippo Group and Astro All Asia Networks, which is owned by Malaysian tycoon T. Ananda Krishnan, to provide direct-to-home pay-TV services in Indonesia.
First Media and the Jakarta Globe are both affiliated with Lippo Group.