Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)

South Fork case offers experience

The South Fork lawsuit against Binh Thuan provincial People’s Committee is a lesson for state authorities in dealing with future litigation with foreign investors.

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Binh Thuan has the biggest number of beach resorts in the country

Information released by the Ministry of Justice showed the US’ South Fork Development Company failed in their suit at an international arbitration tribunal when it asked the committee to compensate $3.7 billion for causing construction delays to its mammoth tourism project in the province.

The committee did not respond to VIR’s requests for comment last week, and South Fork has similarly avoided media contact.

Le Net, a partner at law firm LNT & Partners and also an arbitrator at the Vietnam International Arbitration Centre, said the case was a good chance for Vietnam to learn about and handle possible lawsuits in the future.

“State authorities took the initiative, faced the lawsuit and complied with arbitration regulations. These were the keys to success in this case,” said Net.

He also added that the Ministry of Justice had hired capable lawyers and was confident in the nation’s legal opinion and strategy.

The South Fork Twin Capes project was licensed in 2004 by the Ministry of Planning and Investment. It would have comprised luxury resorts, golf courses, villas, luxury condo complexes, a large community yacht and marina and entertainment areas.

In December 2009, Binh Thuan provincial People’s Committee handed over more than 333 hectares to South Fork for developing the project, demanding the company to implement the project within five months since the handover, or otherwise, the committe would recover the land.

The lawsuit came after the committee revoked the license in 2010 due to long delays.

South Fork laid the blame on the committee, saying they had allowed Duong Lam Company to exploit titanium on the project’s land, causing construction delays.

The committee’s defence was that South Fork was responsible for the delay and was aware of the mineral exploitation as evidenced by an agreement it signed with Duong Lam.

The dispute raised more than a few eyebrows in 2011 when South Fork announced it would sue the committee in an international arbitration tribunal and set damages at $3.7 billion.

Immediately after South Fork announced the suit, former director of Binh Thuan’s Planning and Investment Department Luong Van Hai said local authorities began collecting evidence defending their case.

A source from the Ministry of Planning and Investment said the government also formed a team to handle the dispute immediately after lodging a request for legal recourse to the charges.

By Ngoc Linh