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Court bars Shoprite from transferring assets over $10m judgment debt

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A Lagos Federal High Court has issued an order of Mareva injunction, restraining Shoprite Checkers (Pty) Limited from divesting or transferring its assets out of jurisdiction over a $10 million judgment debt.

There have been reports making the round that the South African high street retailer is proposing to exit Nigeria.

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

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

Shoprite proceeded to appeal the judgement but lost at the Court of Appeal after which it went to the Supreme Court.

Justice Liman, in the Mareva injunction, 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.’

Read also: We can’t close shop on a $30bn investment, Shoprite debunks reports of leaving Nigeria

The judge equally ordered Retail Supermarket Nigeria, the 2nd respondent, ‘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 said it was the one who invited the South African retail supermarket operators to Nigeria and brought them in awareness of business opportunities in the country with the intention that they would go into a joint venture.

The Nigerian firm said after talks had reached an advanced stage and it had incorporated A.I.C.-Shoprite Nigeria Limited in the hope of a joint venture for establishment, Shoprite abandoned the agreement and went ahead to set up its outfit in 2005 without its consent.

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

The Court of Appeal said “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”, the judge ruled.

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