Tetyana Nesterchuk (led by Charles Samek QC of Littleton Chambers) appeared in a successful appeal brought by Raffaele Mincione, Athena Capital Fund & WRM Capital Asset Management against the stay imposed by the Commercial Court in 2021 ( EWHC 3166 (Comm);  1 WLR 1389) on their proceedings against the Respondent, the Secretariat of State of the Holy See (a government unit of the Holy See, which exercises sovereign jurisdiction over the Vatican City State.) The action itself concerns declaratory relief in respect of a high value property transaction in Chelsea’s Sloane Avenue. The stay was imposed on the basis that there were criminal proceedings involving the same subject matter in the Vatican and the Secretariat of State was “hamstrung from participating fully by its proper role as a neutral party awaiting the outcome of a criminal investigation of alleged crimes.” The Court of Appeal accepted the Appellant’s submission that the judge’s characterisation of the Secretariat’s position was untenable and lifted the stay.
The Court of Appeal judgment published on 26 July 2022 is of general interest in that Males LJ (giving the lead judgment with which Peter Jackson and Birss LJJ agreed) reviewed the key authorities in relation to the grant of case management stays of English proceedings where there are related proceedings abroad and confirmed the relevant test applicable by the English courts:
“59. There is, as it seems to me, no reason to doubt that it is only in rare and compelling cases that it will be in the interests of justice to grant a stay on case management grounds in order to await the outcome of proceedings abroad. After all, the usual function of a court is to decide cases and not to decline to do so, and access to justice is a fundamental principle under both the common law and Article 6 ECHR. The court will therefore need a powerful reason to depart from its usual course and such cases will by their nature be exceptional. In my judgment all of the guidance in the cases which I have cited is valuable and instructive, but the single test remains whether in the particular circumstances it is in the interests of justice for a case management stay to be granted. There is not a separate test in “parallel proceedings” cases. Rather, considerations such as the existence of an exclusive English jurisdiction clause and the danger of circumventing a statutory scheme for the allocation of jurisdiction (such as the Judgments Regulation) will be weighty and often decisive factors pointing to where the interests of justice lie.”
Tetyana Nesterchuk (led by Charles Samek QC) was instructed by Peter Wood and Giulia Trojano of Withers LLP.
The Respondent was represented by Charles Hollander QC, Samar Abbas Kazmi and James Bradford, instructed by Hill Dickinson LLP.