The English Court of Appeal has refused to allow the government of Djibouti to proceed with its appeal against a High Court judgement in favour of Djiboutian businessman Abdourahman Boreh, thus bringing to an end a costly four-year legal battle between the regime of President Ismail Omar Guelleh and Mr Boreh.
In all, the government spent almost eight years and some $90 million in legal fees pursuing Mr Boreh, once a close friend and confidant of President Guelleh.
In March, following a 10-week hearing, Mr Justice Julian Flaux, sitting in the Commercial Court, dismissed claims of fraud, bribery and corruption levelled against Mr Boreh by the government of Djibouti.
All along, Mr Boreh had argued that the claims, relating to projects at the Port of Djibouti, were politically motivated and that he had in fact being instrumental in bringing investors and putting his own money into the project that changed the fortunes of Djibouti.
Mr Justice Flaux described Mr Boreh as “a patriot”.He added: “He has a strong desire to improve his country and is justly proud of what has been achieved at Doraleh [container terminal] through his and the Republic’s cooperation with Dubai.“He is not a man who would take bribes to sell his country short.”
President Ismail Omar Guelleh
The judge then ordered the government of Djibouti to pay £9.3 million towards Mr Boreh’s legal costs, later adding £3 million to this figure.
Mr Justice Flaux was critical of the Djiboutian government’s long campaign against Mr Boreh, which began with a false conviction of treason against the businessman in 2009 but which was shown to be false in the High Court in London last year.
The corruption case was the second attempt by the government to destroy Mr Boreh financially and politically.
During a hearing last month on the additional costs, it was revealed that the Djiboutian government had taken the extraordinary step of bypassing the appeal process by applying directly to the Court of Appeal to challenge Mr Justice Flaux’s March judgement.
The judge, who was not given a copy of the appeal document, remarked that it was normal practice to seek permission from the trial judge first instead of going directly to the Court of Appeal but this was something Djibouti would have to explain to the Court.
Djibouti’s lawyers assured the judge that no disrespect was intended and argued that they did this to save costs.
Mr Boreh, now eager for justice finally to be done, instructed his legal team, Byrne and Partners, to request the Court of Appeal to speed up hearing of the Djibouti application.
This took take place before Lord Justice Longmore on June 17.
The Lord Justice of Appeal listened to submissions from the parties’ lawyers, after which he refused Djibouti’s request.
Djibouti was also ordered to pay Mr Boreh’s costs of the hearing, in addition to Mr Boreh’s costs of successfully defending the main claim.
Djibouti can no longer appeal against this decision, meaning that President Guelleh’s long-running campaign against Mr Boreh in the English High Court has finally come to an end.
After the hearing Mr Boreh said: “The politically motivated campaign pursued against me has caused my family and me immense distress, severely damaged my reputation and robbed me of the opportunity to conduct business freely.
“It is ironic that such serious allegations of bribery and corruption were levelled against me by a regime that is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for corruption by independent NGOs [non-governmental organisations] and whose corruption has been remarked upon in US State Department and IMF publications.
“I was persecuted simply because I dared to question the president’s arbitrary decision to change the constitution so that he could remain in power.
“It is also regrettable that the personal vendetta pursued against me by the president has led to the waste of millions of dollars that could have been used to alleviate poverty in Djibouti.”
Mr Boreh went on: “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Court of Appeal for its decision.
“The English legal system richly deserves its reputation for delivering justice to all, no matter the identity of one’s opponent or the fact that they have far greater resources at their disposal, as was true in this case.
“I am pleased and relieved that this matter is now at an end and my family and I can move on with our lives.”
Yvonne Jefferies or Byrne and Partners said the Court of Appeal’s decision “represented the epilogue to this long-running and acrimonious dispute”.
She added: “Mr Boreh was naturally delighted that his name had finally been cleared and he had the opportunity to put this unsavoury affair behind him.
“For Byrne and Partners, there was a tremendous amount of satisfaction that its many years of hard work, in the face of a much better-resourced opponent, had paid off.
“The decision reinforces the English Courts’ reputation as bastions of justice who will decide a case on its merits, even where this involves ruling against a friendly sovereign nation.”