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15 November 2012
A Norwich Pharmacal order is an order for the disclosure of documents or information. It can be a critical tool in establishing a case against a wrongdoer. In its early developmental stage the original Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction permitted an applicant to seek disclosure from a third party involved in some way with the wrongdoer, so as to be able to identify the wrongdoer and bring an action or claim against it. Without the information provided by the third party, it would be difficult or impossible for the applicant to commence an action against the appropriate wrongdoer(s).
The Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction has now extended to cases where the wrongdoer is known but "a missing piece of the jigsaw" is required in order for a claim to be properly brought. The party from which the information is sought need not be an innocent third party but the wrongdoer itself.
In presenting an application to the court for a Norwich Pharmacal order, the applicant must make full and frank disclosure of all material facts, particularly since the Norwich Pharmacal application is ordinarily made on an ex parte basis. The applicant will also ordinarily be required to provide an undertaking to pay the reasonable legal costs and disclosure costs of the party against which the order is granted.
Norwich Pharmacal applications have become commonplace in Belize because Belize offers international financial services. One of the most recent successes in terms of a Norwich Pharmacal order granted by the Supreme Court is illustrated in Quinn Finance v Galfis Overseas Limited (High Court of Justice of Northern Ireland, March 30 2012). In Quinn, the claimants had certain assignment agreements declared null, void and of no legal effect or consequence by relying on evidence obtained pursuant to a Norwich Pharmacal disclosure order granted by the chief justice of Belize in a Belize Supreme Court Claim (Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Limited v Aleman Cordero Galindo & Lee Trust (Belize) Limited).
The assignment agreements which were the subject of the dispute in the Northern Ireland High Court purported to assign a debt valued at approximately £100 million to a Belize international business company, Galfis Overseas Limited. The evidence disclosed pursuant to the Norwich Pharmacal order established the backdating of documents and the fact that Galfis was a shelf company at the time of the purported assignments. The court held that:
"I conclude that all of the impugned transactions are null, void and of no effect as they were executed without the authority of the creditor, Demesne; one of the parties to the impugned transactions, Galfis, had no legal power or authority to execute same on the date when they were allegedly made, 4th April 2011; the attorney who purportedly and allegedly executed the impugned transactions on behalf of Galfis was not their attorney on 4th April 2011 and could not have lawfully acted on their behalf until, at the earliest, 20th July 2011; and each of the instruments in question was illicitly backdated, without any legal power or authority. All of the impugned assignments and addendum agreements are shorn of any vestige of legality in consequence. Accordingly, the cornerstone of the Plaintiff's primary case succeeds."
The decision established that Norwich Pharmacal orders can be a powerful tool in multi-jurisdictional litigation.
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