January 15th, 2021, New York/Islamabad: There is a plot in place to take over Roosevelt Hotel in New York that is owned by Pakistan. According to reports, the powers that be of the world have once again got their heads together for the preservation of their own interests at every cost. This spells a warning for Pakistan.
According to sources, the door of the international institution formed for the resolution of all commercial affairs and disputes has been knocked to take away New York’s Roosevelt Hotel from Pakistan’s ownership. Pakistan is in danger of losing immovable properties in United States and France. The major reason for this is Pakistan’s backing away from a mining contract in Balochistan. A court in the British Virgin Islands has appointed an official to arrive at the value of Roosevelt Hotel in New York and Sofitel Le Scribe Paris Opéra Hotel in Paris, both properties of state-owned Pakistan International Airlines.
The alarming fact is that the consortium of mining giants, Canada’s Barrick Gold and Chile’s Antofagasta, want to take over the hotels in lieu of copper and good mining rights in Balochistan. The companies state that they were stopped from mining without any justification. On the other hand, Islamabad takes the stance that there were irregularities in the contract and the country did not get a good deal.
After the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a court under the jurisdiction of the World Bank, imposed a fine of $5.97 billion on Pakistan in 2019, experts of mediation law everywhere have taken a keen interest in this case. The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan is trying to reach an out-of-court settlement. It is not easy for Pakistan to pay up the hefty fine imposed by the ICSID.
Every matter is distinct therefore it is difficult to tell how much fine Pakistan will end up paying. However it has been witnessed in the past that investors try their level best to takeover a country’s foreign properties. I want to state on this occasion that such matters are resolved through the ICSID, a tool that is used by rich countries to protect their foreign investments.
It is not an unusual tack to try to takeover over foreign properties of nation states. In the legal purview of ICSID and other such tribunals, the lawyers of multinational firms aggressively argue their case. There are clear examples of this; for example Canada’s gold mining company Crystallex wanted to go after the US oil refineries owned by the state of Venezuela over a $1.4 billion dollar dispute after Hugo Chavez took over in 2008, as explained in the following Associated Press report:
One thing that should be kept in mind is that taking over a state’s foreign properties can take years, and most cases do not get resolved without a mutual settlement.
Previous governments, in order to arrange funds to prop up the ailing national carrier, had considered selling the valuable Roosevelt Hotel in New York. It also needs to be remembered that this hotel which was already running into losses, had suspended operations in October. Regarding this matter I will also point out that Pakistan has appealed the decision of ICSID that imposed the fine, and the outcome of the appeal is expected in May 2021.
The question arises whether the court can make it happen. Regarding this, it needs to be said that there is a heavy load of work on this tribunal, and it does not have the resources necessary for research and investigation, the heavy dues, the impartiality of the lawyers, and all the expenses of the case. This shows that there will be an inevitable delay which is likely to go in Pakistan’s favour.
The fine is bound to be a heavy burden on a cash-strapped nation like Pakistan which has garnered interest from followers of legal matters. This case is related to an investment by Barrick Gold and Antofagasta in Reko Dig mine in the Chaghai district of Balochistan. Pakistan was dragged into a mediation matter on the basis of which a two-way agreement had been signed in 1998 with Australia. Tethyan Copper Company (TTC) is registered in Australia.
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