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Shoprite battles $10m judgment debt, barred from transferring assets

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The Federal High Court in Lagos has made an order of mareva injunction stopping Shoprite Checkers (PTY) Limited from disposing of or transferring its assets out of jurisdiction over a $10m judgment debt.

Shoprite has announced its plan to exit Nigeria.

The mareva injunction made by Justice Mohammed Liman was in favour of a Nigerian firm, A.I.C. Limited, which in 2018, secured a $10m judgment against Shoprite in a breach of contract lawsuit.

According to court papers, the $10m judgment was entered in favour of A.I.C. Limited against Shoprite by Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja.

Displeased with the judgment, Shoprite went on appeal but it equally lost at the Court of Appeal and has gone to the Supreme Court.

In the July 14, 2020 mareva injunction, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent, Justice Liman restrained “the judgment debtor/1st respondent,” and its privies “from transferring, assigning, charging, disposing of its trademark, franchise and intellectual property in a manner that will alter, dissipate or remove these non-cash assets and other assets, including but not limited to trade receivables, trade payables, payment for purchase of merchandise, from within the jurisdiction of this honourable court.”

The judge also mandated the 2nd respondent, Retail Supermarket Nigeria Limited, “to disclose its audited financial statements for the years ending 2018 and 2019 to enable the judgment creditor/applicant determine the judgment debtor’s/respondent’s funds in its custody in order to preserve same in satisfaction of the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Appeal No: CA/L/288/2018.”

A.I.C. Limited had in 2012 sued Shoprite Checkers (PTY) Limited; and Retail Supermarket Nigeria Limited for alleged breach of contract.

The Nigerian firm said it was the one, who invited the South African retail supermarket operators to Nigeria and opened their eyes to business opportunities in the country, with a view that they would go into a joint venture.

The Nigerian firm, however, said after talks had reached an advanced stage and it had incorporated A.I.C.-Shoprite Nigeria Ltd. in the hope of a joint venture for establishment, Shoprite abandoned the agreement and went behind its back to set up its outfit in 2005.

Though Shoprite contended that it had no contract with the Nigerian firm, both the high court and the Court of Appeal said the series of exchanged correspondences between the parties confirmed that A.I.C Limited and Shoprite agreed to a joint venture.

Upholding the high court judgment, the Court of Appeal held, “There is evidence in the record that the 1st appellant allowed the respondent to search for a suitable site for the partnership project and to apply for a lease of land for the partnership project. These involved time, energy and money. The court below held that the conduct of the parties demonstrated intention to enter into a legal relation in respect of the partnership project. I agree.”

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