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Torture and Bribery Alleged in Shipping Contract Dispute

ships in mistIn the context of a shipping contract dispute, the High Court has reiterated the basic principle of law that evidence obtained by torture must be disregarded by the courts of any civilised nation. The Court found that it could not rule out the possibility that confessions to bribery by company executives had been obtained under duress.

Company A agreed to charter a bulk carrier to company B whose performance of the contract was guaranteed by company C. Company B failed to meet its obligations under the contract and was in repudiatory breach of the same. Company A accepted that the contract had been terminated and sought to enforce the guarantee against company C in the amount of more than $68 million.

Company C refused to meet that demand on the basis that the contract had been procured by bribery. That allegation was based on purported confessions made by executives of company A. However, the latter argued that those confessions had been obtained by torture at the hands of the authorities of the country where company C was based.

In ruling in company A’s favour, the Court found on the available evidence that the contract had not been infected by bribery. Despite the absence of medical evidence, it also could not rule out the possibility that the confessions had been obtained by torture. In the circumstances, the Court ruled that company C was obliged to meet its obligations under the guarantee in full.