In a ruling which helps to define the dividing line between the concepts of domicile and habitual residence, the Court of Appeal has dismissed a dual nationality businessman’s plea that the English courts have no jurisdiction to resolve a dispute concerning the abortive purchase of a holiday home in Egypt.
The purchaser had paid the businessman $300,000 in respect of the property but had not obtained good title to the same and sued for the return of the money. The businessman argued that the English courts were precluded from ruling on the matter as the dispute concerned title to foreign land.
The High Court had found that the businessman, whilst retaining his domicile in Egypt, was habitually resident in England on the basis that he held both Egyptian and English passports, was on the English electoral role, was a director of an English-registered company and lived for most of the time in this country.
The businessman argued that the English courts had no jurisdiction to rule upon a dispute that was inextricably and fundamentally bound up with issues relating to the ownership of foreign land. Dismissing his appeal, however, the Court found that private international law had moved on to the extent that the English courts had developed jurisdiction to order specific performance of personal obligations to transfer land situated abroad.
In circumstances where the businessman’s conduct was said to have given rise to a personal obligation, the purchaser’s claim in any event depended upon conventional principles of the law of contract and restitution. The outcome was not dependent on establishing any right in foreign land or the enforcement of any such rights.