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OW trustees win first round in court battle for oil totaling millions

If a third British court sides with the OW Bunker trustees in a dispute concerning the rights to oil sold by the company prior to its bankruptcy, it will be a major breakthrough, says trustee and lawyer John Sommer Schmidt from Gorrissen Federspiel to Danish television news TV2.

Photo: Kasper Palsnov/Jyllands-Posten

A test case in the British legal system, which could serve as legal precedent for several hundred similar cases regarding contested ownership rights over the oil sold by OW Bunker around the time of its bankruptcy, has been decided in favor of the estate's trustees.

Several oil suppliers believe that they are the rightful owners of the oil, while OW Bunkers' trustee conversely believe that the estate has the right to receive payment for the oil which has a value that totals hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Danish televisions news TV2 Finans.

The trustees have thus far been upheld by an arbitrator in the UK and in the High Court in London.

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The final and decisive step is the Court of Appeal in London, which will be ready with a decision over the coming days.

Trustee and lawyer John Sommer Schmidt of firm Gorrissen Federspiel explains that the oil dispute cases make up a large part of the overall demand for over one billion USD from the estate of OW Bunker.

"If the Court of Appeal rules in favor of the OW Bunker estate, the ruling will form a legal precedent and many of the oil suppliers will likely adapt to this in one way or another. It seems unlikely that anyone would want to spend money on a court case they stand little chance of winning," the trustee tells ShippingWatch.

It is difficult to say how many potential lawsuits would be called off, though John Sommer Schmidt stresses that, in his view, many of the cases "look alike," and these seem likely to be aborted once the highest legal entity has ruled in the matter.

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"In any case, that's what we expect, but this depends on reactions and how the ruling is interpreted," he says to ShippingWatch.

He adds that it will be a major breakthrough if the Court of Appeals upholds the decisions of the arbitration and the High Court.

"We believe that this will solve the Gordian knot with respect to the tripartite relationship between OW Bunker-subsidiaries, suppliers and customers," he says.

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