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The Dubai International Financial Centre ("DIFC") is a free zone for banking, insurance, securities trading and other financial services. It was established with the aim of transforming Dubai into a major financial centre. On 7 Jan 2019, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai announced plans to triple the size of the Centre (see the DIFC press release Mohammed Bin Rashid Approves DIFC’s New Expansion Plan 8 Jan 2019).
The press release states that
"Upon completion, the new district will comprise 6.4 million square feet of office space, 2.6 million square feet of creative space, 1.5 million square feet of residences, 1.3 million square feet of retail space and 700,000 square feet devoted to leisure and entertainment. This will be complemented by a financial campus covering approximately 400,000 square feet, an additional 250,000 square feet of hospitality offerings, and 3.5 million square feet of car parking space."The DIFC already has its own laws based on English common law with its own English language courts and tribunals. It is reasonable to suppose that those laws will apply to the new area.
I first discussed the DIFC's legal system in DIFC Courts 7 Jan 2011 JD Supra. When I wrote that introduction nearly all the judges of the DIFC's Courts were Commonwealth expatriates. Many of those judges have now retired and been replaced by Emirati citizens. Chief Justice Tun Zaki Bin Azmi is Malaysian but the Deputy Chuel Justice and four other judges are Emiratis.
The DIFC Courts will accept jurisdiction where parties choose those courts for the resolution of future or existing disputes (see Jane Lambert DIFC Courts Spread Their Wings 7 Dec 2011). Businesses in developing countries may prefer their disputes to be resolved in Dubai rather than London or New York for all sorts of reasons. As the DIFC courts are English speaking common law tribunals, they are likely to be acceptable to many businesses in developed countries. I discussed choice of jurisdiction clauses in DIFC Courts: Choice of Jurisdiction Clauses 28 Dec 2012.
Another development that could increase the importance of the DIFC Courts is the creation of a virtual commercial city. Art 3 of the Dubai government's Fifty Yeat Charter envisages "the establishment of the first virtual commercial city in the region that grants commercial licenses without having to reside in Dubai. The city will allow investors to open bank accounts and grant e-residencies according to best international laws and regulations." The government hopes to have 100,000 companies in that virtual city. The reference to "best international laws and regulations" are presumably the laws and regulations of the DIFC and the tribunals that would apply those laws are likely to be the DIFC Courts.
The DIFC Courts belong to an organization known as The International Consortium for Court Excellence which has members from various parts of the world including Bhutan, Namibia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland as well as the USA, Canada, Australia and Brazil. Dubai hosted the annual conference of that consortium in November 2018 (see press release DIFC Courts host international court excellence and legal tech conference 7 Nov 2018).
Anyone wishing to discuss this article or the DIFC Courts generally should call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.