Shoeb K. Zainuddin
Singapore. Media organization Astro All Asia Network told the Singapore High Court on Tuesday that a ruling by the Singapore International Arbitration Center that granted it a multi-hundred-million-dollar payment should be upheld.
The case was brought before the court by Lippo Group affiliate First Media, which is challenging the arbitration tribunal’s jurisdiction to grant the $300 million award for damages, interest and costs to Astro.
The case centers on a failed joint venture between Lippo and Astro, which is owned by Malaysian tycoon Ananda Krishnan, to provide direct-to-home pay-TV services in Indonesia.
Taking the stand on the second day of the hearing on Tuesday, Astro’s lawyer David Joseph, QC, said that there was no remaining process for First Media to challenge the awards or their validity.
“The awards are final and binding and are recognized as such under Singapore statute. Being final and binding, the courts should enforce them,” Joseph said.
In response to First Media’s argument on Monday that the arbitration court had mistakenly granted awards to three Astro units — Astro All Asia Networks, Measat Broadcast Network Systems and All Asia Multimedia Networks FZ-LLC, referred to as plaintiffs 6, 7 and 8 — because none of the defendants, including First Media, had entered into an arbitration agreement with these companies, Joseph said that was an incorrect interpretation of the law.
He did not elaborate on why the interpretation was wrong but argued instead that First Media had waived or abandoned its right to appeal under the International Arbitration Act, which stipulates that this must be done within three months.
“First Media’s position is that the award should not be enforced in relation to the restitution claim,” Joseph said. “This is hopelessly muddled and the summons should therefore be dismissed.”
Astro had said in 2008 that it ended the joint venture because Lippo had failed to pay 805 million ringgit ($253 million) that Astro had charged for services to the joint venture.
Lippo unit Ayunda Prima Mitra then started court proceedings in Indonesia against several companies and individuals linked to Astro in response to what it said were “threats by Astro to stop providing services” to the joint venture.
First Media claimed that Astro had made dubious payments to unknown parties, that Astro had full management control over the joint venture and that it had overcharged on programming.
Today, First Media lawyer Toby Landau, QC, is expected to submit his closing summations and Joseph to offer his counter arguments. Observers say the case has attracted international attention and will test the independence and competence of the SIAC.
First Media and the Jakarta Globe are both affiliated with Lippo Group.