Case Update: Accent Delight International Ltd v Bouvier, Yves Charles Edgar [2016] SGHC 40 – forum non conveniens; non-availability of substantive claims under foreign law

Accent Delight International Ltd v Bouvier, Yves Charles Edgar [2016] SGHC 40

Significance: High Court held on application of Spiliada principles and the doctrine of forum non conveniens that Singapore proceedings should not be stayed in favour of Switzerland because, among other reasons, the plaintiffs may not be able to pursue their substantive claims under Swiss law. The Court also considered that the purported disadvantages of having the dispute determined in Singapore are neutralised by having the dispute heard in the Singapore International Commercial Court.

The common issue in the Monaco and Singapore proceedings is agency – did Bouvier act as the plaintiffs’ agent in respect of the 37 artworks that he procured for them? See [73].

The fundamental issue was whether the plaintiffs can pursue the majority of their substantive claims under Swiss law. Lai Siu Chiu SJ held that they could not: [81].

The parties’ experts agreed that Swiss law is not available for the plaintiffs’ claims in breach of fiduciary duties, deceit, fraudulent misrepresentation and knowing receipt. Further, the plaintiffs’ substantive claims for breach of fiduciary duties, constructive trust, fraudulent misrepresentation and conspiracy need to be re-characterised as claims in tort, contract and unjust enrichment under Swiss law. Lai SJ was concerned that that those claims cannot be so reclassified: [86].

The plaintiffs’ proprietary and equitable claims are not recognised under Swiss law. That would cause grave prejudice to the plaintiffs if this Suit is stayed in favour of Switzerland as the forum.: [102].

If this Suit is stayed, the plaintiffs cannot mount their claims against Rappo under Swiss law either unless the same are re-characterised as claims in tort or contract or unjust enrichment (on which Lai SJ expressed reservations): [103].

This Suit should be transferred to the SICC. Such a transfer offers all the advantages and none of the disadvantages to the plaintiffs or the defendants that were raised in their submissions. The international judges who sit on the SICC are not only eminent and very able but some hail from countries that have civil law systems: [116].

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.