Dubai Shariah court to decide fate of $460m super-yacht Luna

Farkhad Akhmedov’s yacht in the Mugla Province of Turkey on Aug. 16, 2017. (Ali Balli/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Updated 25 July 2018
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Dubai Shariah court to decide fate of $460m super-yacht Luna

  • Dubai’s judicial authorities have ruled that a controversial case involving the $460 million super-yacht Luna must be decided in a UAE Shariah court
  • The super-yacht was impounded by DIFC courts while docked in the UAE for maintenance

DUBAI: Dubai’s judicial authorities have ruled that a controversial case involving the $460 million super-yacht Luna must be decided in a UAE Shariah court and not in the Dubai International Financial Center’s common-law courts system.
Ownership of the yacht — once the property of billionaire Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich — is a key part in bitter divorce proceedings between wealthy Azerbaijan-born businessman Farkhad Akhmedov and his former wife Tatiana Akhmedova.
The super-yacht was impounded by DIFC courts while docked in the UAE for maintenance after a London court handed it to Akhmedova as part of a £453 million ($600 million) divorce settlement in 2016.
But in a ruling earlier this month, seen by Arab News, the Dubai Judicial Tribunal has sent the matter to the Dubai courts for a decision. The tribunal was set up to decide on matters of disputed jurisdiction between the “offshore” DIFC court and the “onshore” courts.
The decision will add further controversy to a case that has already made headlines around the world. The Shariah legal system is generally held to treat the husband more favorably in divorce cases than Western courts.
In addition, the ruling could be interpreted as a further blow to the credibility of the DIFC’s independent legal system, based on common law and conducted in English, which is an important part of Dubai’s positioning as a global financial center.

 

 Akhmedov’s lawyers argued that his ex-wife had sought to use the DIFC courts as a “conduit jurisdiction to enforce the English family court judgment to avoid the stringent tests for recognition and enforcement (under UAE law), which violates public policy and public order in the UAE and Islamic shariah,” according to the ruling.
They added that “the jurisdiction of the DIFC courts is restricted to civil and commercial matters. They are not competent in family and marital matters.”
The Judicial Tribunal, under chairman Ali Ibrahim Al-Imam, accepted that argument and said that the Dubai courts were the “competent courts to entertain the dispute, including the attachment of the yacht.”
The court could lift the current impounding order. Akhmedov has claimed the Luna is not owned by him, but by a Liechtenstein corporation, Straight Establishment, for the benefit of his children.
The 115-meter Luna, launched in 2009, has two helipads, a 20-meter swimming pool, a mini-submarine and 10 luxury guest cabins.
It has been in Dubai dry docks since October last year. There have been concerns about its condition deteriorating in an Arabian Gulf summer, and permission has been sought from the court to move it from its current position to nearby Port Rashid.
One lawyer involved in the case, who asked not to be identified, said: “Our guidance is that it could take between six and 12 months to get a decision from Dubai courts, and that will not be good for the condition of the vessel.
“A lot depends on whether the court will seek a full review of the terms of the original settlement made by the English court. The man tends to do better in Shariah courts,” he said.

FASTFACTS

Super Yacht

The $460 million, 115-meter Luna has two helipads, a 20-meter swimming pool, a mini-submarine and 10 luxury guest cabins.


Saudi Arabia aims to achieve e-payment target of 70%

Updated 22 February 2019
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Saudi Arabia aims to achieve e-payment target of 70%

  • Reform plan seeks cashless society
  • E-payments could exceed $22bn in next four years

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia wants to achieve an e-payment target of 70 percent by 2030, a banking official told Arab News on Thursday, as the country moves toward becoming a cashless society.

Talat Hafiz, from the Media and Banking Awareness Committee for Saudi Banks, said online or cashless transactions were part of the Vision 2030 reform plan.

The Financial Sector Development Program (FSDP) was one of the initiatives to support the economic growth goals of Vision 2030, he added.

“Basically it is to transfer Saudi society from being heavily cash dependent in buying goods and services to a cashless society using digital and electronic payment,” he told Arab News. “One of the FSDP’s main targets is to increase and improve the percentage of non-cash utilization, from 18 percent in 2016 to 28 percent in 2020. However, the goal will increase of course with the target to 70 percent by 2030.”

Hafiz, in an Arab News column published earlier this month, said the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) had been encouraging electronic payments and settlements in order to reduce the reliance on cash.

SAMA had introduced a number of e-payment systems in the last two decades to help consumers and institutions, he wrote, such as the Saudi Arabian Riyal Interbank Express and the online bill payment portal SADAD.

Earlier this week Apple Pay was launched in the Kingdom, joining the cashless roster of payment methods available to Saudi consumers.

A cashback service operated by credit card companies, where a percentage of the amount spent is paid back to the cardholder, was introduced last year in Saudi Arabia.

An illustration of how direct debit works, courtesy of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA).

“All of these efforts collectively from the SAMA side are to reach the ambitious goal of the FSDP.”

Hafiz explained that e-payments saved time and effort and allowed people to access service and goods around-the-clock. 

“This is basically why SAMA is very active and now we see SAMA and the National Payment System are responsible and leading (the country) toward a cashless society by achieving the target set by 2030.”

Last February the Amazon-owned Payfort online payments service registered a new company in Saudi Arabia.

According to the “Payfort State of Payments 2017” report, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the fastest growing markets in the region for electronic payments.

The report estimates that Saudi Arabia conducted $8.3 billion of payment transactions in 2016, showing 27 percent year-on-year growth.

E-payments in the Kingdom are expected to double over the next four years to reach more than $22 billion, the report added.