The State Lawsuits Authority (SLA) was able save the state treasury about $5.6bn and EGP 2.4bn of investors’ claims over the past four years. The SLA is now looking into 4m cases in local courts and 23 international arbitrations, according to SLA Chairperson Hussein Abdo, in an interview with Daily News Egypt.
What is the role of the SLA in combating corruption and preserving public money?
The SLA is the state’s legal prosecution with its three authorities. This includes filing lawsuits to take back rightful funds and terminating contracts whose parties breach their roles.
There is a constant contact between the SLA and the various regulatory bodies to inform them of any corruption when investigating any cases.
How many international arbitration cases were filed against Egypt and were settled? What is their total value?
Nine cases have been ruled in favour of the state since 30 June 2013, including three cases from the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), three from the Arab Investment Court, two from US courts, and a ruling from an English court.
As a result of these rulings, the SLA was able to save the state treasury some $5.683bn and EGP 2.4bn, which are the sum of the investors’ claims in these arbitrations.
Among the most prominent of these disputes is the case filed by Ahmed Bahgat against the state before the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The claims in this case amount to $4.8bn.
There is also the case filed by the American H&H against the state at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) of the World Bank, in which the company claimed $833m.
Moreover, there is the lawsuit of National Gas against the state at the ICSID worth EGP 604m, and the invalidity case filed by Malicorp Limited.
How many cases are now in courts? What are their values?
The SLA is following 4m cases filed against and by the state in local courts. The total value of the claims amount to billions of pounds, mostly linked to corruption. This includes the case against the former minister of interior Habib El-Adly and ousted president Mohamed Morsi, where the SLA is seeking civil compensation for the crimes he committed.
There are also the major gold smuggling, storming prisons, and Tiran and Sanafir cases, along with the direct misdemeanours against ministers and governors.
Abroad, the SLA is following 23 international arbitrations, including eight investment cases before the ICSID, five at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and a case at the Arab Investment Court.
What are the most important achievements of the SLA since its establishment?
The SLA has made several achievements since its inception, including winning the lawsuits related to cotton and the Suez Canal, as well as the 1932 general debt fund, DreamLand, and all other international arbitration filed against the state.
Among the most recent achievements of the SLA was the major gold smuggling case, and Tiran and Sanafir.
What are the types of arbitration addressed by the SLA?
The SLA works on two types of cases, international trade and investment cases. The international trade is based on the state violating the terms of its contracts with foreign companies, while international investment is related to claims of the state violating the bilateral investment agreements with foreign countries.
Among the arbitrations handled by the SLA are oil and gas, constructions, aviation, media, projects, and sanitation cases.
There are also compulsory arbitrations between the companies of the public sector and the various administrative bodies in which the SLA represents the administrative bodies, whether in defence or to attend as arbitrator in such arbitrations.
What are the most prominent amendments to the new law of the SLA? When will it be finalised?
After the new constitution, the SLA acquired new jurisdictions, such as supervising legal departments of the various organs of the state to improve their level and to fill gaps of time lost in the exchange of correspondence between them and the SLA, which reflects on the defence of the state in the proceedings that arise from them.
The SLA participates in the drafting of contracts for projects in which the state is a party to avoid any mistakes that may lead to lawsuits or arbitration disputes against the state, and thus avoiding arbitration involving huge sums.
The SLA is entitled to propose the settlement of disputes to which the state was a party amicably at any stage of litigation.
What are the most prominent new amendments to the law under preparation?
There are new amendments to the draft law of the SLA, such as articles related to activating the role of the SLA in settling disputes, drafting contracts, and technical supervision of the departments of legal affairs in units of the administrative body of the state.
The SLA and its supreme council finished drafting the articles of the draft law, and it was sent to the Ministry of Justice, which, after reviewing it, submitted it to the cabinet, to then send it to parliament.
What is the value the SLA saved the state since its establishment?
The SLA saved the state treasury huge sums since its inception at the end of the 19th century. Recently, the SLA was able to collect EGP 305.9m and $717,726 in the current judicial year as a result of rulings in favour of the state.
What is the future plan of the SLA for the coming years?
The SLA established 27 branches and is currently establishing two new branches in the cities of Sixth of October and New Cairo.
Is there cooperation between the SLA and similar judicial bodies inside and outside Egypt?
There is close cooperation between the SLA and all other judicial bodies—we are all working for justice.
The SLA is always cooperating with the Egyptian Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) in international disputes and arbitration, where the FRA provides the SLA with the data and paperwork necessary.
This cooperation resulted in victories for the state, such as the case against businessperson Ahmed Bahgat, which saved the state about $4.8bn.
How many judges serve in the SLA? Is there a need to increase them during the next phase?
There are about 3,300 judges. The SLA’s supreme council approved the appointment of graduates from the faculties of law, police, law, and Shariah, pending the republican decision to approve them to face the huge number of cases.
We have established a centre for judicial and legal studies in the SLA, which is taking steady steps in developing the skills of the judges.
We have held four trainings in the last two months. The SLA is keen to hold these trainings outside Cairo as well. One was held in Alexandria, and another in Aswan.
We recently agreed with Alexandria University’s Faculty of Law and the Arab Academy for Science, Technology, and Maritime Transport to benefit from mutual experiences.
What are your expectations for Egypt during the coming 10 years?
The number of cases filed against the state after the passage of the civil service law will be lower, since the law fixes several gaps inprevious laws, which caused many problems.
According to the new amendments and the SLA’s participation in the state’s contracts, the number of arbitrations will also be reduced. Moreover, the SLA’s judges have gained more experience, which would help them avoid the mistakes when they pen the state’s contracts.
What are the most important recommendations for resolving disputes faster and better to attract more investments?
The most important thing is to facilitate the procedures of litigation, which contributes to reducing the burden on the judges and litigants at the same time.
This is reflected through rapid rulings and is very important for local and foreign investors.
We look forward to the issuance of new procedural laws that are commensurate with the current era, such as the code of civil procedure and trade, or at least amend the current laws.
The legislative reform committee had earlier requested the SLA’s proposals on the planned procedure law, which regulates the procedures of litigation in civil, commercial, and administrative matters.
The SLA submitted its proposals to address the defects that we see, and we hope they are taken into account.
The new Investment Law issued last year will contribute to drawing more investments to Egypt.