UpdatePlaying for time – claiming to be a sovereign state – Part 2

March 15, 2022

In Playing for time – claiming to be a sovereign state, I suggested that the arguments advanced by the Defendant in this case were wholly without merit. Judgment has now been given on the issue as to whether or not the Defendant is a state and on the method of service. The case is AELF MSN 242, LLC (a Puerto Rico limited liability company) v. De Surinaamse Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V. D.B.A. Surinam Airways Neutral Citation Number: [2022] EWHC 544 (Comm).  
As indicated previously, in response to AELF’s claim, SLM raised a very technical argument that the airline was not served correctly under the English State Immunity Act because the airline is, according to the airline, a sovereign state. I suggested that this argument was wholly without merit and that even if SLM were a state and needed to be served in a specific way, the airline had consented to service of process by the bailiff in Suriname.

After considering all the arguments in detail, Peter MacDonald Eggers QC (sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court) concluded as follows,

  • SLM was not entitled to be served with the Claim Form in accordance with section 12(1) of the State Immunity Act 1978, because SLM was a “separate entity” and a separate entity is not entitled to the privilege granted by section 12(1).
  • If this conclusion is wrong, SLM nonetheless agreed to be served in the way it was served and so such service was effective in accordance with section 12(6).
  • It follows that SLM’s application contesting jurisdiction must be dismissed on these grounds in addition to its submission to jurisdiction and appearance within the meaning of section 12(3).

It now remains to be seen whether the airline will seek to contest the case on its merits. There has to date been no indication as to what such defence might be especially given the CEO’s statement to the press that, “I’m going to solve the problem with the leasing company and this debt is just a legacy from the past of the previous management.”

Steven Loble of W Legal is representing AELF with Hannah Brown QC

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