Debevoise Helps Secure Historic Decision by ICSID Tribunal to Suspend Extradition of Two Claimants and Related Criminal Proceedings in Arbitration Against Albania

10 March 2016

In a unanimous order issued on March 3, 2016 in an arbitration being heard before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (“ICSID”), a three-member arbitral tribunal has issued provisional measures recommending that the Government of Albania “take all actions necessary to suspend” extradition proceedings against two of the named Claimants in the case, Debevoise clients Francesco Becchetti and Mauro De Renzis. In addition, the tribunal also recommended that Albania suspend the underlying criminal proceedings, and that the parties come to an agreement on the preservation of the Claimants’ assets for the duration of the arbitration. Hydro S.r.l., Costruzioni S.r.l., Francesco Becchetti, Mauro de Renzis, Stefania Grigolon and Liliana Condomitti v. Republic of Albania, ICSID Case No. ARB/15/28.

Debevoise has represented the successful claimants in two of the only four known cases of ICSID tribunals recommending provisional measures to suspend local criminal proceedings, the other one being Lao Holdings N.V. v. Lao People’s Democratic Republic, ICSID Case No. ARB(AF)/12/6. Prior to the decision in the Hydro case, no ICSID tribunal had ever been reported to recommend the suspension of extradition proceedings. In its decision, the Hydro tribunal held that the Albanian criminal proceedings and the extradition proceedings in England caused an imminent risk to Claimants’ ability to participate effectively in the arbitration that could not be adequately remedied by damages, and that “the balance of proportionality comes down in favour of protecting the Claimants’ rights.” The decision was issued less than a month after the provisional measures hearing.

“We are delighted that the ICSID tribunal has so swiftly vindicated Claimants’ rights. We look forward to a favorable result on the substance of their claims that Albania violated the bilateral investment treaty,” said Debevoise partner David W. Rivkin.

Claimants brought the arbitration for violations of the Albania-Italy bilateral investment treaty as a result of ongoing attacks and harassment against the Claimants and their investments, which include a hydroelectric plant and two television stations, Agonchannel Albania and Agonchannel Italy. Mr. Becchetti created Agonchannel as the first delocalized television station in Europe, but it ceased broadcasting in late 2015 due to the Government’s actions. Claimants argued, among other things, that Albania retaliated against Claimants’ assertion of their arbitration rights by launching various abusive and baseless tax investigations and criminal proceedings against Claimants and their investments. Albania issued arrest warrants against Mr. Becchetti and Mr. De Renzis (the administrator of Agonchannel) and sought to obtain their extradition from the United Kingdom.

Debevoise’s International Dispute Resolution Group advises on the most complex international disputes for leading multinationals, international organizations, sovereigns and non-governmental organizations in commercial, investment treaty and public international law disputes. In 2015, the firm handled over 80 matters worth in excess of $65 billion. Spanning Debevoise’s New York, London, Paris, Moscow and Hong Kong offices, the practice’s lawyers are fluent in more than 30 languages and trained and qualified under a host of common law and civil law systems.

The Debevoise team is led by partners David W. Rivkin and Christopher K. Tahbaz and includes associates Ina C. Popova and Shaun Palmer. Serving as co-counsel in the case are Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, led by partner Philippe Pinsolle, French firm Scemla Loizon Veverka & de Fontmichel, Italian firm Studio Saccucci Fares & Partners, and Karel Daele at Mishcon de Reya in London.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is a premier law firm with market-leading practices, a global perspective and strong New York roots. We deliver effective solutions to our clients’ most important legal challenges, applying clear commercial judgment and a distinctively collaborative approach.