Court of Appeal upholds immunity of President of Mozambique

5 March 2024

On Thursday 29th February, the Court of Appeal handed down a unanimous judgment upholding the decision of Mr Justice Robin Knowles CBE that His Excellency President Nyusi, the President of Mozambique, has sovereign immunity in relation to the claims brought against him in the long running “Tuna Bonds” litigation.

In the underlying proceedings, the Republic of Mozambique brought claims against a number of parties, including the Privinvest Defendants in relation to an allegedly corrupt scheme involving loans arranged to develop the Mozambique tuna fishing fleet. The Republic of Mozambique claims damages of over $2 billion.

In response to the claim brought against it, the Privinvest Defendants asserted a claim against President Nyusi and argued that they had successfully served the President with that claim by delivering documents to a checkpoint of the Presidential Palace in Maputo in October 2021, and that His Excellency had lost the right to rely on his immunity by not responding to the claim as served. Privinvest also argued that His Excellency was in any event unable to rely upon sovereign immunity in relation to service of the same claim on him in April 2023.

The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of Mr Justice Robin Knowles, who found that service of legal process on President Nyusi was never validly effected.  This is because the Privinvest Defendants had failed to comply with the relevant rules in the CPR, which contain important provisions requiring service in Mozambique to be effected through the Mozambique judicial authorities, rather than directly by a party (as the Privinvest Defendants had done). The consequence of this is that His Excellency was entitled to assert sovereign immunity. The Court of Appeal also upheld the claim by His Excellency to immunity from the claim as a sitting Head of State.

Simon Bushell, senior partner of Seladore Legal commented “We’re pleased that the Court of Appeal has upheld President’s Nyusi’s entitlement to invoke sovereign immunity consistent with the long-held principle that the English Courts will not entertain claims brought against a sitting Head of State. Today’s victory puts a stop to Privinvest’s most recent attempt to make the President contribute to any liability it may face in the wider dispute.”

HE President Nyusi was represented at the appeal hearing by Rodney Dixon KC and Russell Hopkins of Temple Garden Chambers instructed by Seladore Legal (Simon Bushell, Gareth Keillor, Max Sherrard, Anna Sattlegger). Seladore Legal was retained by President Nyusi through his personal advocates from Kenya, Mr. Mohammed Nyaoga, SC (Mohammed Muigai LLP) and Kennedy Ogeto.  A team from Mohammed Muigai LLP comprising of Geoffrey Imende, Dennis Nkarichia and Nimo Adan provided support in the conduct of the brief.


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