Monday, July 26, 2010

AlGosaibi v Maan AlSanea - BNPP versus Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank in re TIBC L/Cs

In discussing the Fortis lawsuit against ADIB, I mentioned that ADIB was also a defendant in a lawsuit brought by BNP Paribas' "Full Commercial" Branch in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The relevant documents can be found at the NY Supreme Court Website  under Case # 603365/2009.   Or more precisely one document as all that is posted so far is the complaint by BNPP - missing what I'll bet ares some very interesting attachments.  Unclear why this is.  Especially since the submission in question dates from November 2009.

Here are the facts from the material posted on the NY Supreme Court's website:
  1. In March 2009, ADIB issued six irrevocable reimbursement undertakings ("IRU's") in favor of BNPP to induce it to confirm 6 "commercial" letters of credit issued by The International Banking Corporation in favor of Dawnay Day and Co for the Account of AlGosaibi Trading Company.
  2. BNPP confirmed TIBC's letters of credit and then upon presentation of the documents accepted the documents and the time drafts presented.  
  3. On an unspecified date, BNPP claimed reimbursement of some US$44,875,000 from ADIB.  Presumably, the maturity date of the accepted time drafts.
  4. ADIB refused to pay.
  5. In September 2009 (after acceptance of the drafts by BNPP) ADIB obtained a judgment in Bahrain Court enjoining ADIB from making any payment.  
  6. BNPP is seeking to have the Court issue a temporary restraining order preventing ADIB from moving assets (presumably balances in its correspondent accounts in NY) from the USA.
  7. Its claim is for the principal of the payment (US$44,875,000) plus interest, attorney's fees and costs.
Now to some comments.
  1. It's not clear to me why there isn't more precision in documents sent to the Court with exact dates when events took place, additional details of the individual transactions -  currency, goods, tenor, etc.  Perhaps time was of the essence and BNPP's lawyers wanted to file quickly to block the potential movement of assets outside of the USA. 
  2. Dawnay Day was a very large "financial firm" with a commodities trading wing which ran into some "financial difficulties" as a result, I believe, of the global financial crisis (small "g" as always).  It was also an active participant in structured "Islamic" trade transactions as described in my post about Fortis.  It had at least one subsidiary Condor Trading which it uses so that the "purchaser" and "seller" of the goods are not the same party.  
  3. It appears (but the documentary record here is very slim so this is an educated guess) to be a mirror of the Fortis transaction.  The TIBC L/Cs are one half of the "Islamic" structure:  the purchase on deferred terms.  For TIBC/AlGosaibi to actually get the funds a spot sale on a cash basis is required.  That could have been with Condor with TIBC Bank acting as the "arranger" of the transaction.   That is probably the most likely scenario and the one that I think happened - but again note this is an educated (or uneducated) guess.
  4. Since discovery in other legal cases has resulted in the publication of  some details of at least the US - domiciled US dollar accounts of Awal Bank and TIBC, clever boots might be looking through that material for incoming credits around the time of the negotiation/acceptance (but not the payment date) of the first leg letters of credit. That is in the Fortis case the Awal Bank LC confirmed by Fortis under ADIB's IRU.  And in the BNPP case, the letters of credit issued by TIBC and confirmed by BNPP against ADIB's IRUs.  If these are indeed disguised clean money on money loans, the second leg (the spot sale) should have occurred around the same time.  The amounts would not necessarily be the same as interest on the loan might be built into the price on the first leg (the deferred payment).
  5. But one key additional bit of information.  If we look at the Fortis Case (NY Supreme Court Reference 601948/2009 Exhibit #2 Document #34 Amended Declaration of Qays Zubi, we note two things.  First, TIBC LC's seem to have been denominated in Euros not US.  Second, a restraining order has only been obtained for four L/Cs not six as mentioned in BNPP's complaint.  The total of the L/C's mentioned in the Qays Zubi Declaration are some Euros 18,243,975.  Clearly, that does not equal US$44,875,000.  Two L/Cs are "missing".  Does that give Fortis a legal "wedge"?
  6. We also learn that the payment dates on the TIBC L/Cs were between 22 June and 24 June.  You'll also notice that the certified translation has an error in that it shows the last LC as due March 23,2009.  The Arabic clearly states (in "Western" numbers not Arabic!!!) 23 June. 
  7. The central point of BNPP's claim (like that of Fortis) is that under a documentary (aka commercial) letter of credit the bank's obligation to pay is independent of the commercial contract.  Its obligation is set by the terms of the letter of credit.  Compliance with the documentary requirements of the letter of credit establishes the obligation.  
  8. To overcome the rather substantial amount of case law and precedents in favor of BNPP's legal position, I believe ADIB has to prove two things. (a)  Fraud in the inception.    (b) Involvement of BNPP in that fraud.  That is a a tough row to hoe as the saying goes.  


Laocowboy2 said...

I would love to know whether ADIB has made any provisions for the amounts in dispute under the Fortis/BNP Paribas transactions? And the stance (if any) of the UAE Central Bank? Neither piece of information is likely to be forthcoming in the S/T but truth tends to out in the long run.

Anonymous said...

I met the folks at TIBC in 2007 and again in 2008. Both times, the english gentleman running part of the operation made the following comments:

- Orders come from above, out of the blue, and we just have to execute.
- Most of the time we're sitting around.
- Banks love lending us money, we can borrow from anyone.
- Theres a large european group that provide us alot of leverage.

Laocowboy2 said...

Anonymous - I can understand visiting once but unless I was selling something (single premium policies perhaps or land in Congo), why on earth go back a second time to see someone who (a) had no authority, (b) apparently had no self-respect and (c) was a leading candidate to end up in jail? Or was he going to rely on an insanity plea?

Anonymous said...

Good question, to be honest, The second time was for giggles.