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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Akinci Law Office

05 April 2019

A safe bet for Turkish clients at ICSID

People in Who's Who Legal 1
Pending cases as counsel 29
Value of pending counsel work US$3.2 billion
Treaty cases 5
Third-party funded cases 9
Current arbitrator appointments 10 (2 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 1

Orhan Akinci established Akinci Law Office in Izmir in western Turkey in 1984. His son, Ziya Akinci, took over management of the firm in the 1990s and opened its doors to international work, moving the firm to Istanbul in 2003. Ziya Akinci is a member of the ICC Court, the LCIA and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. In 2015, he was appointed president of the newly created Istanbul Arbitration Centre (ISTAC).

Other names to know at the firm are Cemile Gökyayla, who has published widely on private international law; and Karen Akinci, who is an accredited mediator.

Who uses it?

Akıncı and his team reckon to have been involved in some capacity in most of the major ICC cases involving Turkish parties. It’s acted for Turkey’s ministry of industry and major local electricity distributors Enerjisa Enerji and Bereket Energy, as well as Turkish conglomerate Çukurova.

A number of Turkish companies have also turned to the firm for treaty claims against Central Asian and Middle Eastern states, particularly relating to the construction and energy sectors.

Foreign clients include the government of Romania, the European Union, Spanish supermarket chain DIA Group, infrastructure group OHL and Japan’s IHI Infrastructure Systems.

Track record

A notable win in an investment treaty case came in late 2017, when the firm helped Turkish energy company Aktau Petrol win nearly US$25 million in an ICSID claim against Kazakhstan. The state was held liable for the seizure of the claimant’s investments at a port on the Caspian Sea through the “executive action” of court bailiffs that went uncorrected by the courts. GAR 100 firm Derains & Gharavi in Paris was also part of the counsel team in the case, which is now the subject of annulment proceedings. 

The firm has had a pair of good results for Turkish construction clients against Kyrgyzstan, winning a U$16.6 million UNCITRAL award for roadbuilder Entes in 2015; and a US$9 million ICSID award for Sistem Mühendislik in 2009. Entes has since launched enforcement proceedings in the US and Russia, arguing that with interest the award is worth US$2 billion.  

In 2011, the firm helped Turkish construction group Tubin win an ICC award worth US$60 million against German corporation Bilfinger Berger relating to a highway project in Qatar. The award was declared enforceable by the Qatari courts.

Recent events

Akinci Law Office saw an award on liability in an ICSID claim brought on behalf of Turkish electrical services company Federal Elektrik Yatırım against Uzbekistan. While the award is yet to be published, it appears the investor prevailed on at least a part of its claims, which concern contracts to upgrade the country’s domestic gas market to a metered system. Jones Day is is also counsel on the case.

An award is expected soon in another ICSID case against Uzbekistan, which Akinci is handling alone on behalf of Turkish textiles investors.

The collaboration with Derains & Gharavi continues. The two firms are acting for Turkish construction client Attila Doğan in an ICSID claim against Oman lodged in 2016; and are defending Romania against a US$200 million ICSID claim brought by a company linked to deceased insurance magnate Dan Adamescu.

In 2018, the firm has also filed four new ICC cases, won mandates for four new investor-state disputes in the US$50 million to US$100 million range, and prevailed in a construction dispute before the Dubai International Arbitration Centre.

Client comment

Alev, a Turkish distributor of rubber products, turned to Akinci for an ICC claim against a Brazilian manufacturer after becoming disillusioned with two previous law firms. Company owner Coskun Alev tells GAR he would “warmly recommend” the firm. He was particularly impressed by Ziya Akinci and Cemile Gökyayla, who obtained a favourable award that allowed the company to revive its operations.

Member companies of Turkey’s Çukurova Group also recommend the firm. Türsen Demir, general manager of Çukurova Kimya (the group’s chemicals division), praises Akinci’s witness preparation and cross-examination skills, and says that the company received “value for money”.

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