See you in court! Egyptian business magnate takes on Algeria
It's Egypt versus Algeria in a legal battle over telecoms
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Weather Investments, chaired by Egyptian telecoms magnate Naguib Sawiris, launched its $5 billion claim on Monday against Algeria for allegedly inflicting damages to stakes it owned in the Egyptian Orascom Telecom Algerie, most popularly known as Djezzy.
“The Algerian Government committed to a number of protections, including a promise to refrain from arbitrary interference in our operations, but has since 2008 pursued a campaign of interference and harassment which has cost Weather Investments over $5 billion in damages,” Sawiris said in a statement.
Luxemburg-based Weather claims Algeria has repeatedly breached its responsibilities under a treaty both signed by the two parties in 1991; the “agreement between the Belgo-Luxembourg Economic Union and the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria concerning the reciprocal encouragement and protection of investments.”
According to the statement released by Weather Investments, Algeria implicated breaches that range from imposing unjustified tax reassessments, a customs blockade preventing it from importing goods and network equipment, to imposing unjustified fines worth $1.3 billion among others.
“This is a bad development not just for us, but for all foreign investors in Algeria. The Algerian regime stands as a stark exception to a region which, on the whole, is beginning to engage global investors, pursue economic development and implement reforms attractive to the international business community,” Sawiris said.
According to the statement released by Weather Investments, the telecom has notified Algeria of the dispute six months ago but has received no response from the government, this inactivity led to Weather Investments filing a complaint in the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, a resolution branch of the World Bank based in the United States.
Algeria has allegedly breached other investment treaties as well, claims Weather Investments.
Emmanuel Gaillard, head of Shearman & Sterling, the firm that is representing the Algerian government in the dispute, confirmed that Weather Investments initiated arbitration proceedings.
“We intend to vigorously defend the case. We think the claimant has no case,” said Gaillard, as quoted by Financial Times on Monday.
Gaillard explained that Weather Investment, as an indirect minority shareholder in Orascom Telecoms Algerie, cannot pursue the case.
“We don’t see any room for a treaty breach,” said Gaillard.
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