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GAR 100 - 9th Edition


18 February 2016

Regular counsel to Indonesia in investor-state matters

People in Who’s Who Legal: 1
Current arbitrator appointments: 2 (of which 1 are as sole or chair)
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 Cal Energy (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 filed. It’s now regularly the state in investment treaty matters.

The practice is led by Karen Mills and Ishwahjudi Karim. Mills, a US national who relocated to Indonesia in the 1980s, is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and co-chair of its Indonesia chapter, and also sits on the advisory board of local arbitral institution BANI.

More recently, she became treasurer of ArbitralWomen, a global body that supports women in international dispute resolution. .

Who uses it?

Besides the Indonesian government, state infrastructure company Persero and national oil company Pertamina are major clients, as is Malaysian state oil company Petronas.

Track record

The firm achieved great results for Indonesia 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 being convicted in absentia of fraud and money laundering.

Rizvi’s ICSID claim was thrown out in 2013 for lack of jurisdiction, after KarimSyah (and co-counsel Mahnaz Malik of 20 Essex Street) demonstrated that Rizvi’s investment in the bank hadn’t received the regulatory approval required by the BIT. Al-Warraq’s damages claim, brought under an obscure treaty between 27 Islamic states, was also thrown out in 2014, although the tribunal did find that the Indonesian criminal proceedings against him fell short of international standards of due process.



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