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GAR 100 - 12th Edition


05 April 2019

Indonesia’s only representative in these pages has championed the use of arbitration in the country

People in Who's Who Legal 1
Pending cases as counsel 3
Value of pending counsel work US$64 million
Treaty cases 0
Third-party funded cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 3 (2 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 2

Established in 1997, KarimSyah was one of the first Indonesian firms to combine transactional and contentious work. Its practice tended towards debt restructuring during the country’s 1998 economic crisis, but the firm soon began to take on more arbitration work.

Around that time, the firm cut its teeth by representing the Indonesian government and state power utility PLN in a pair of arbitrations against US developer CalEnergy (the Dieng and Patuha cases). The firm takes credit for restoring the government’s confidence in international arbitration after helping it win the first arbitration the state had ever filed. It now regularly advises the state in investment treaty matters.

The firm has also been at the forefront of efforts to promote the discipline more widely in Indonesia, setting up the local chapter of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, which partner Karen Mills co-chaired for a decade before stepping down last year. 

A US national who relocated to Indonesia in the 1980s, Mills is a fellow of the CIArb and the only chartered arbitrator in the country. She also sits on the advisory board of local arbitral institution BANI, where her partner Iswajudi Karim is also an arbitrator.

Mills is also a member of the executive board of Arbitral Women, a global body that supports women in international dispute resolution with which she has been active since its inception, and sits on a task force of the International Mediation Institute looking at the potential for mediation to resolve investment disputes.

Who uses it?

Besides the Indonesian government, the state infrastructure company Persero and national oil company Pertamina, clients include Malaysia’s state oil company Petronas.  Around half of the firm’s engagements are in national and international construction disputes and several clients also come from the insurance, oil and gas, mining and transportation sectors.

Track record

KarimSyah has served as lead counsel to the Indonesian government in five investor-state arbitrations, including the only case so far in which the state has been a claimant, achieving wins in each.

The firm helped the state escape damages in a pair of investment treaty matters arising from the government’s US$700 million bailout of a local bank during the global financial crisis of 2008. The owners of the bank, UK citizen Rafat Rizvi and Saudi national Hesham al-Warraq, brought separate treaty claims after the Indonesian courts convicted them in absentia of fraud and money laundering. The men alleged that the convictions were politically motivated.

Rizvi’s ICSID claim was thrown out in 2013 for lack of jurisdiction, after KarimSyah demonstrated that Rizvi’s investment had not received the regulatory approval required by the treaty. Al-Warraq’s damages claim, brought under an obscure treaty between 27 Islamic states, was also thrown out in 2014, although the tribunal found that the criminal proceedings against him fell short of international standards of due process. In the wake of that ruling, Interpol cancelled Red Notices it had issued against the two men.

The firm also obtained a favourable settlement in a Singapore-seated ICC arbitration between subsidiaries of a major national mining company and a US-based multinational contractor.

Recent events

KarimSyah recently achieved an amicable settlement in a major dispute between a subsidiary of Indonesia’s national airline and a foreign supplier.

The firm’s partners have been sitting as arbitrators in cases in Jakarta and Singapore, including some large matters relating to coal facilities.



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