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Debevoise and White & Case to battle out South Korea tax arbitration

Debevoise & Plimpton and White & Case are among firms drafted in to fight out an arbitration claim against South Korea from Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).

Two Dutch subsidiaries of IPIC, Hanocal and IPICI want to reclaim tax paid to South Korea when it sold its controlling stake in a national oil refinery for $2.2bn in 2010. According to domestic media, Hanocal filed a claim for 180 billion won ($165 million) in compensation.

The investment arm of the Abu Dhabi has brought the claim over tax paid on the sale of Hyundai Oilbank to the world’s largest shipyard Hyundai Heavy Industries. The claim has been filed at the World Bank’s Washington DC-based arbitration court The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

South Korea’s government has instructed New York-based David Rivkin, co-head of dispute resolution at Debevoise and president of the International Bar Association, and London-based partner Sophie Lamb to defend the claim. They will be supported by a trio of partners at local law firm Kim & Chang: Byung-Chol Yoon, Liz Kyo-Hwa Chung and Chol-Won Lee.

IPIC has instructed renowned arbitration lawyer Carolyn Lamm, a partner at White & Case, to spearhead its claim. She is being supported by Washington DC-based colleagues, Andrea Menaker and Brian Gleicher, as well as Abu Dhabi-based partner Abdulwahid Alulama.

London-based Gary Born, chair of the international arbitration group at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr has been appointed to a three-person panel to hear the dispute by Hanocal and IPICI. South Korea has nominated William Park, a law professor Boston University and former vice-president of the London Court of International Arbitration, as its party-appointed arbitrator. The panel’s president is yet to be selected.

In 2009 Debevoise had acted alongside Bae, Kim & Lee to win $750m for Hyundai Heavy Industries after an arbitration panel ruled the IPIC had materially breached a shareholders’ agreement.