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贸易结算以案说法之二:不可忽视的香港法院“管辖权”

时间:2014-01-18 点击:
1. CASE REVIEW
 
1.1 The Underlying Contract and the Credit Transaction
 
On 22 July 2008, the Xiamen Branch of a Chinese bank, a listed company in Hong Kong Stock Exchange (“Xiamen Bank” or the “Issuing Bank”) issued a letter of credit for US$8,235,00 in favour of a Singaporean trading company (the “Singaporean Company” or the “Beneficiary”) at the request of a buyer of Xiamen (“Xiamen Buyer” or the “Buyer”). The underlying contract was the sale of 45,000 WMTs (Wet Metric
Tons) (+/-10% at seller’s option) of iron ore fines at US$183 per DMT (Dry Metric Ton) CFR FO. The credit was freely negotiable and was subject to UCP600. It is stipulated that the payment be made in Xiamen 90 days after presentation.
 
1.2 Presentation, Examination and Rejection
 
The Beneficiary had 44,500 WMTs goods with value of US$ 7,185,105.43 shipped from India to Mainland China on 19 and 23 July 2008 respectively. The goods arrived at Fangcheng Port, Guangxi Province on 2 August and were discharged the following day. The Beneficiary presented the documents to the negotiating bank and requested payment from the latter on 30 July. On 4 August the negotiating bank, then, delivered the documents to the Issuing Bank who, after receiving the documents on 6 August, sent three SWIFT messages as follows:
 
(1) SWIFT message MT752 sent on 11 August 2008 stated:
 
PLS   CLAIM   REIMB   AT   SIGHT   BASIS   FOR   CREDIT   TERMS.   T/T   REIM ALLOWED. PLS ADVISE THE DRAWEE BANK OF LC NO NAME OF COMMODITY, LOADING AND UNLOADING PORT AND DAT OF SHIPMENT.”
 
(2) SWIFT message MT799 sent on 12 August, which countermanded the previous message
 
MT 752, stated:
 
PLS DISREGARD OUR MT752 DD080811 AND CONSIDER THE MT752 AS NULL. PLS DO NOT CLAIM THE REIMBURSEMENT FROM THE DRAWEE BANK OF AMERICA NEW YORK. THANKS FOR YOUR KIND COOPERATION.”
 
(3) At 07:36 on 13 August 2008, by a SWIFT message MT734, the Issuing Bank listed 4 discrepancies in the presented documents and rejected to honour the presentation with a statement that it was holding the documents at the presenting bank’s disposal. The discrepancies identified were:
 
1. SHORT DRAWN; 2. PARTIAL SHIPMENT; 3. THE TOTAL CARGO VALUE OF THE BILLS IS LESS THAN THE TOLERANCE AMOUNT OF THE L/C; 4. THE TOTAL CARGO VALUE OF THE BILLS BEFORE PRICE ADJUSTMENT, BONUS AND PENALTY IS LESS THAN THE TOLERANCE AMOUNT OF THE L/C”.
 
The alleged first discrepancy was relating to the amount of the payment. The amount specified in the credit was US$ 8,235,000 while the amount required by the Beneficiary was US$ 7,185,105.43, which was below the +/-10% credit amount tolerance. The alleged second and third discrepancies related to the quantity of the goods. The credit required “45,000 MTS (+/- 10 percent at beneficiary’s option)”goods to be delivered and prohibited partial shipment. The issuing bank alleged that 45,000 MTs was 45,000 DMTs (as opposed to 45,000 WMTs). The shipped 44,500 WMTs goods were equivalent to about 40,017.50 DMTs which were outside a tolerance range of +/-10% of 45,000 DMTs. The alleged fourth discrepancy concerned the adjustment of value of the goods. It was said by the Issuing Bank that the value of goods shipped remained outside the +/-10% tolerance even after the adjustment of the value.
 
1.3 The Price Reduction and the Payment Effected by the Issuing Bank
 
The presenting bank, on behalf of the Beneficiary, refused to accept the reasons for the rejection stated by the Issuing Bank. However, the market price of iron ore fines fell during that period. The seller was forced to agree with the buyer on a reduction of the unit price from US$ 183 per DMT to 128 per DMT CFR FO. Hence, the total value of goods was reduced to US$ 5,122,240. Both parties signed on the memo of price reduction. Then, the Beneficiary produced a new invoice with the deducted price, and stated in the new invoice: “in mitigation and without prejudice to Singapore XX Pte Ltd. rights”。
 
The presenting bank sent the following SWIFT message to the issuing bank on 22 September:“THE VALUE OF THE BILL HAS BEEN REDUCED TO US$ 5,122,240.00
 
INSTEAD OF US$ 7,185,105.43.    KINDLY RELEASE THE DOCUMENTS TO THE APPLICANT M/S  XIAMEN C AND D INC. UPON RECEIPT OF US$ 5,122,240.00 ONLY.” The issuing bank, then, paid US$ 5,122,240 to the Beneficiary on 25 September.
 
1.4 The Beneficiary Brought an Action against the Issuing Bank Hong Kong
 
High Court
 
After suffering such losses, the Singaporean Beneficiary, sued the Issuing Bank in the High Court of Hong Kong. It contended that the latter two messages had no legal effect, so that the Issuing Bank could not rely on them to negate the effect of the first message which had accepted the documents and promised to pay. As a result, the Beneficiary claimed for the difference between the originally agreed amount specified in the credit and what it eventually received, namely US$ 2,062,865.43.
 
The Issuing Bank defended that it had sufficient reasons to reject the documents. It also contended the proceeding should be stayed for forum non conveniens on the ground that none of the concerned parties was resident of Hong Kong and the related transactions happened in Mainland China and Singapore. Reyes J, after hearing the case, held that the Issuing Bank did not give a sufficient notice of refusal and should pay the damage the Beneficiary incurred. He also rejected the Issuing Bank’s application of staying the proceeding.
 
 
2. THE LEGAL AND FACTUAL ANALYSIS
 
2.1 Whether can the Issuing Bank’s Discrepancies Defence stand?
 
(1) Arguments of the Beneficiary
 
The Beneficiary argued, according to Article 14, 15 and 16 of UCP600, that the first message issued by the Issuing Bank had accepted the documents. Therefore, the Issuing Bank was bound by that message to honour the presentation which precluded it from “claiming that the documents do not constitute a complying presentation” for the bank can only give “a single notice” of its refusal to honour. Furthermore, the issuing bank’s notice of refusal was not consistent with Article 16 (c)(i)-(iii).
 
(2) Arguments of the Issuing Bank
 
The Issuing Bank contended that there was only one notice of refusal, being the third SWIFT
 
message MT732, which listed all discrepancies and was sent within five banking days during
 
which period the bank was entitled to determine whether the presentation complied with the credit as stipulated by Article 14 (d).
 
(3) The Decision of Reyes J
Reyes J accepted the submission of the attorney of the Beneficiary rather than the Issuing Bank. He held that “MT734 cannot be taken out of context and read in isolation. For example, on its face, MT734 is contradictory to MT752. It is necessary to read the whole continuum of the Bank’s 3 messages together to make any sense of MT752, MT799 and MT734. MT799 makes it clear that the issuing bank was attempting to countermand MT752, while MT734 gives the reasons (which MT799 failed to give) for the purported countermanding.” He restated the status that letters of credit (it is often said) are the lifeblood of commerce and continued to say: “An obvious corollary to such proposition is that, at any given time, persons engaged in commerce should be certain where they stand in relation to a bank’s commitment under a letter of credit. It would be conducive to uncertainty if, after having given notice that it approved a presentation of documents; a bank could then turn around and reject the very same documents.” “Under UCP 600, an issuing bank has 5 days in which to decide whether a presentation is compliant. If before those 5 days are up, the bank represents that it will honour, then it is bound by Article 15a to honour. Objectively, the notice to a beneficiary that the bank will honour constitutes a binding outward manifestation by the bank that it has determined a presentation to be compliant. The bank cannot afterwards change its mind, possibly even vacillating many times between honour and refusal, on the ground that the 5 days period has not yet expired. If the issuing bank can blow hot or cold, commercial persons will never know where they stand in relation to a presentation until the expiry of the entire 5 day period.”
 
2.2 Does Hong Kong High Court Have the Jurisdiction to Hear the Case and Decide on the Damage?
 
(1) Does the Beneficiary Was Justified to Sue the Issuing Bank?
 
Reyes J rejected the submission of the attorney represented for the Issuing Bank that the Beneficiary was not justified to sue the Issuing Bank directly. He said: “The letter of credit constituted at law a contract between the Bank (as issuing bank) and the Singaporean
 
company (as beneficiary). By that contract the Bank agreed to honour a complying presentation.” Consequently, the Beneficiary can sue the issuing bank directly as of right.
 
(2) Should the Issuing Bank Pay the Difference to the Beneficiary?
 
The attorney appearing for the Issuing Bank submitted that the contract between the Issuing Bank and the Beneficiary, if had, varied by the subsequent agreement between the Beneficiary and the applicant as to the reduction of price. Upon the instructing given by the bank of the Beneficiary, the Issuing Bank released full set of documents to the applicant and therefore suffered in losing the lien upon documents. The damage awarded to the Beneficiary should mitigate this part of loss.
 
(3) The Judge was not Convinced by the Attorney for the Issuing Bank
 
The Judge noticed that the credit required the payment to be made at sight by mean of T/T or
 
90 days after being accepted by a New York bank while the reduced amount was actually paid by the Issuing Bank itself. The Judge did not regard that the reduced amount paid by the Issuing Bank as variation of the contract between the Issuing Bank and the Beneficiary as evidenced by the letter of credit. Meanwhile, the judge did not accept the submission that the bank lost its security in the documents due to the instruction of the Beneficiary. This was because the Issuing Bank stated in its third message that it would hold the documents at the presenting bank’s disposal. Even though the bank paid the reduced amount to the Beneficiary, it still had the right to hold the documents until the applicant reimbursed this part of loss. Thus, the judge found that “the [Issuing] Bank has no arguable defence to the Singaporean company [the beneficiary]’ claim.”
 
(4) Does the Hong Kong High Court Have Jurisdiction over the Case?
 
Since the Issuing Bank had no arguable defence or triable issue between the parties, the judge did not regard Hong Kong as an inconvenient place to hear the case - “there is no reason why the matter cannot most conveniently be dealt with in Hong Kong and I have just done so.”. He continued to found that “[t]he [Issuing] Bank is registered in Hong Kong under Part XI of the Companies Ordinance. Proceedings against it were commenced here by [the Beneficiary] as of right. The burden is on the [Issuing] Bank to establish that Xiamen is a more appropriate forum than Hong Kong.” The Issuing Bank put forward the following 6 arguments to support that Xiamen was a more appropriate forum than Hong Kong:
 
i.    the Beneficiary’ claim solely concerns the Bank’s Xiamen Branch.
 
ii.   All negotiations between the seller and buyer took place between the Beneficiary’ Shanghai office and XCD based in Xiamen.
 
iii. The Sale Contract concerned with the delivery of iron ore fines from India to the
 
Mainland rather than transpiring in Hong Kong.
 
iv. The Letter of Credit required presentation of documents in Xiamen.
 
v.   Communication following the dishonour of the letter of credit took place in Xiamen. vi. Almost all the potential witnesses dwell in Xiamen or Shanghai.
However, the above-mentioned six factors were not accepted by the Judge. He held that “[t]here is no real dispute over the material facts. Oral evidence from witnesses would not have a significant role in resolving the parties’ dispute. The dispute is essentially a short question concerning the true construction of Articles 14, 15 and 16 of UCP 600. If the SWIFT message of 22 September 2008 has to be construed, a Court can simply read it.   The Court could then decide whether the message might be treated as some sort of representation and (if so) with what legal effect.   This Court is well-accustomed to dealing with such questions in a quick and efficient manner.”
 
2.3 The Judgment of the Trial
 
The Court rejected the submissions of the attorney of the Issuing Bank. The judgment awarded the Beneficiary the difference of US$2,062,865.43 together with interest at the rate of “1% over US$ prime from 9 November 2008 (that is, 90 days following the original presentation of the documents to the Bank)” until the date the judgment was issued, thereafter interest would run at the judgment rate.
 
 
3. COMMENTARY
 
3.1 On the Substantial Issue
 
The substantial issues as to the presentation, examination, and the notice of refusal were not the highlights of this case. It is undeniable that the Issuing Bank’s approaches in examining and rejecting the documents have put itself in a dangerous position. It adopted problematic method to communicate with the Beneficiary and the presenting bank. It also risked itself in its relation with the applicant. Now, the case is heard before the Court of Appeal. Accurate interpretation as to Article 14, 15, and 16 of UCP600 is expected to be given in its judgment. We cannot give further comments as to the substantial issues until the Court of Appeal renders its decisions as to these substantial issues.
 
3.2 On the Jurisdiction of the Courts of Hong Kong
 
I notice and am astonished by the decision of the High Court of Hong Kong as to the issue of jurisdiction. The issuing banks in mainland China would face the risk of losing the judicial protection from Mainland China when engaging in international financial business. In the instant case, the issuing bank is a financial institution of mainland China. At the request of its customer which resides in Mainland, it opened a credit in favor of a Singaporean beneficiary. Hence, the parties of the underlying contract of sale of iron ore fines as well as the credit transaction have no connection with Hong Kong except that the Mainland issuing bank is listed in Hong Kong. On ground of this mere connection, the Singaporean Beneficiary chose to sue in Hong Kong.
 
3.3 On Potential Threats and Risks to the Banks and Other Financial Institutions of Mainland China Which Are Listed in Hong Kong
 
If this decision is upheld by the Court of Appeal, it would put Mainland financial institutions in disadvantaged position. The foreign counterparty would choose to initiate the proceeding in Hong Kong instead of Mainland China if the Mainland defendant is listed in Hong Kong. The fact is that most banks, including ICBC, BOC, CCB, ABC, CMBC, China CITIC Bank as well as many small banks, have been listed or prepared to be listed in Hong Kong. If the foreign parties choose to sue these institutions in Hong Kong and win the suit, could the judgment can be enforced against the assets of these institutions located within the territory of Hong Kong. At least three unfortunate consequences would accompany with this decision. First, these institutions would no longer enjoy the complete judicial protection provided by courts of Mainland China. Second, they may suffer direct financial loss as well as indirect damage to their international integrity. Thirdly, litigation costs may increase dramatically and attorneys of Mainland will be put in an unfavorable position in terms of competition.
 
 
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诉讼与仲裁团队
案例报道和分析     2
 
不可忽视的香港法院“管辖权”
金赛波
 
1.1 基础合同和信用证交易。
 
2008 7 22 日,中国某在香港上市 H 股上市的股份制银行厦门分行(简称“厦门银行”或“开证行”)应厦门一买方客户(以下简称“厦门买方”或者“买方”)的要求开立信用证,为一宗为数量为 45,000 WMTs (Wet Metric Tons) (+/-10% at sellers option),价格为 CFR FO 183 美元每公吨的铁矿石国际买卖合同,开立了金额为 8,235,000 美元的信用证,信用证适用 UCP600,受益人为一家新加坡公司(以下简称“新加坡公司”或“受益人”)该信用证为自由议付信用证,但是信用证又规定是见单后 90 天付款。信用证规定交单付款地为厦门。
1.2 交单、审单和拒付。
此后,受益人于 2008 7 19 日和 23 日分别在印度将 44,500 WMTs 货物装运往中国大陆。船上货物价值为 7,185,105.43 美元。货物于 8 2 日到达广西防城港并于次日卸货。7 30 日,受益人将单据提交给议付行并从后者要求获得付款,8 4 日交单行将单据转递给开证行,开证行于 8 6 日收到信用证单据。此后开证行发出三道电文如下:
18 11 日开证行以 SWIFT 格式 MT752 形式向交单行发出电文,指出:
PLS CLAIM REIMB AT SIGHT BASIS FOR CREDIT TERMS. T/T REIM
 
ALLOWED.   PLS ADVISE THE DRAWEE BANK OF LC NO NAME OF COMMODITY, LOADING AND UNLOADING PORT AND DAT OF SHIPMENT.”
28 12 日,开证行以 SWIFT 格式 MT799 形式向交单行发出电文推翻之前一日的 MT752 格式PLS DISREGARD OUR MT752
DD080811 AND CONSIDER THE MT752 AS NULL. PLS DO NOT CLAIM THE REIMBURSEMENT FROM THE DRAWEE BANK XX NEW YORK. THANKS FOR YOUR KIND COOPERATION.”
38 13 7 36 分以格式 MT734 发出
 
SWIFT 电文指出受益人提交单据存在不符点予以拒付并指出将持有单据听后交单行指示,不符点如下:“1. SHORT DRAWN2. PARTIAL SHIPMENT3. THE TOTAL CARGO VALUE OF THE BILLS IS LESS THAN THE TOLERANCE AMOUNT OF THE L/C 4. THE TOTAL CARGO VALUE OF THE BILLS BEFORE PRICE ADJUSTMENT, BONUS AND PENALTY IS LESS THAN THE TOLERANCE AMOUNT OF THE L/C.”第一个不符点是基于信用证金额问题,受益人提款金额为 7,185,105.43 美元,而信用证金额为 8,235,000 美元,所以受益人提取的数额低于信用证规定的 10%增减额。第二个和第三个不符点属于货物数
量问题,在信用证中规定是“45,000 MTS (+/- 10 percent at beneficiarys option)”不能分批装运,但是开证行认为“45,000 MTs”属于“45,000 DMTs(干公吨)”,而单据描述的货物数量为“44,500 WMTs(湿公吨)”,而该数量的湿公吨数量等于
40,017.50 DMTs(干公吨).而该数量货物超出了信用证规定的 45,000 DMTs(干公吨)10%增减额的范围。第四个不符点是关于货物价值,开证行认为即使对价格进行调整,货物价值仍超出了信用证所允许的 10%增减额。
1.3 货物降价和开证行付款。
8 14 日,交单行代表受益人对开证行拒付理由表示不能接受。但是在那个时间段内铁矿石的价格开始下跌。在此背景下,买卖双方就铁矿石纠纷事宜进行协商。2008 9 22 日,最后卖方被迫同意降价将价格从大幅从 183 美元每 DMT 降到 128 美元每 DMT CFR FO.因此货物的价值大约降低到 5,122,240 美元。双方之间还签署了降价的备忘录。受益人重新出具了一份金额为减额后的发票,并在发票上标注:“in mitigation and without prejudice to Singapore XX Pte Ltd. rights”字样。
 
9 22 日,交单行发给开证行如下电文:“THE VALUE OF THE BILL HAS BEEN   REDUCED   TO   USD5,122,240.00   INSTEAD   OF   USD7,185,105.43. KINDLY RELEASE THE DOCUMENTS TO THE APPLICANT M/S XIAMEN C AND D INC. UPON RECEIPT OF USD5,122,240.00 ONLY.9 25 日,开证行支付了 5,122,240 美元给受益人。
1.4 受益人在香港法院起诉开证行。
新加坡受益人遭此损失,实在咽不下这口气,在香港高等法院起诉厦门开证行,其理由为:开证行不能以之后的两份电文否定之前的第一份电文中接受单据同意付款的内容。后面的两份电文是没有法律效力的。因此受益人向开证行的索赔降价差额金额为 2,062,865.43 美元。
 
厦门开证行提出自己的拒付有理,且以本案各方当事人均非香港当事人、本案交易发生在中国大陆和新加坡之间为由,提出了不方便管辖抗辩。但是 2010 5 3 日开庭当日,香港特区高等法院 Reyes 法官判决开证行不当拒付,开证行主张香港法院没有管辖权的程序要求被法官驳回。开证行应赔偿受益人所遭受的损失。
2. 法律和事实分析
2.1 关于开证行不符点抗辩是否成立?
1)受益人的主张。 
本案事实适用 UCP 14 条和第 15 条和第 16 条规定的结果。香港高院首先详细引述了 UCP600 的前述各条规定。法官注意到受益人的主张为:在本案中受益人一共发出三次电文。但是一旦开证行发出电文接受单据并同意付款,开证行即受其约束并产生向受益人兑用信用证的义务,因为 UCP600 规定开证行只有一次机会提出拒付并指出不符点,此后第二次和第三次发出的拒付电文和其所主张的不符点都将被排除其有关单据相符的权利(“precluded from claiming that the documents do not constitute a complying presentation”)。况且开证行在本案有关不符点的抗辩不符合 UCP600 16 C 款第 i 至第 iii 的规定。
2)开证行的主张。
开证行于 8 13 日发出的 MT734 格式电文(即第三封电文)是本案唯一的一份拒付电文,该电文给出不符点和拒付理由是仍在 5 个银行工作日内开证行有权根据 UCP600 14 d 款决定交单是否相符。
3Reyes 法官的观点。
Reyes 法官无法赞同开证行律师的意见,他同意受益人律师的意见。他认为开证行于 8 13 日发出的 MT734 格式电文(即第三封电文)不能被孤立地看待。该第三封电文表面上就和第一封电文即 8 11 日发出的 MT752 电文相冲突。因此必须将整个三封电文连续地进行解读方能知道电文的意思。第二封 MT799 式清楚显示想要取消第一封 MT752 格式电文,而第三封 MT734 格式却想基于取消第一封电文之目的、又鉴于第二封电文没有给出拒付理由从而想要提供一个拒付理由。Rayes 法官重申了信用证是商业的生命血液(Letters of credit (it is often said) are the lifeblood of commerce.)这一名言。他说我们据此可以推出,在某一特定时间之内,一个商业人士必须确定银行在信用证项下的义务会立于何地(at any given time, persons engaged in commerce should be certain where they stand in relation to a banks commitment under a letter of credit.)如果一家银行在给出其接受交单的通知之后却可以转而拒绝这一交单,就会引发(信用证付款义务的)不确定性。在 UCP600 下,开证行只有 5 个银行工作日离开决定单据是否相符,如果在 5 天内银行表示他会兑用信用证给受益人,那么根据 UCP600 15a 开户行就受付款义务的约束。客观地说,一旦银行向受益人表示其会兑用信用证就有约束力地构成外在表示其认定受益人的交单是相符的。从而该开证行不能稍后以 5 个银行工作日仍未到期为由,转而改变之前的主意或者甚至可能无数次地在付款和拒付之间犹豫不决。如果开证行如此出尔反尔(blow hot or cold),那么在该 5个银行工作日期满之日之前,对于该交单商业人士就永远无法确定他将立于何地。
2.2 关于香港法院能否对本案进行审理以及损失的支付问题?
1)受益人是否有权起诉开证行?
Rayes 法官无法接受开证行律师的如下主张:受益人无权起诉开证行。法官认为一个信用证构成一个在开证行和受益人之间的一个合同(constituted at law a contract between the    Bank (as issuing bank) and Swiss (as beneficiary)。根据该合同,开证行同意对受益人的相符交单作出付款。因此受益人根据该合同有权起诉开证行。
2)开证行应该支付多少款项给受益人?开证行的律师又主张,即使在开证行和受益人之间有一个合同,那么该合同
也因后来买卖双方之间的和解协议而指示开证行支付减价后的金额而得以修改。
况且,受益人的银行也给了开证行 SWIFT 指示要求开证行支付减价后的金额,而且更重要是,开证行因为基于受益人的指示在支付减价后的较低金额之后将全套货物单据放单给了买方申请人,从而导致了开证行手中丧失了担保物的不利后果。开证行这一部分的损失是由受益人和受益人的交单行造成的,因此受益人的损失要做出相应的扣减。
3)法官认为他无法被开证行律师的观点说服。法官发现信用证的条款规定:一旦开证行收到相符单据后有两种付款安排:
一种是开证行即期作 TT 付款,另外一种安排是由纽约一家付款行承兑信用证项
下汇票后于 90 天后付款。但是法官发现开证行最后自己在信用证项下对受益人减价后的货款做了付款。法官不认为开证行的这笔付款是否事先经过申请人批准对开证行和受益人之间的信用证合同的修改有什么关系。同时法官不认为因为受益人要求开证行支付减价后的款项会导致开证行丧失对申请人的担保物或者担保利益。因为开证行给受益人的书面指示是将持有单据听后交单行的指示,而且即使在开证行向受益人支付减价后的款项后,开证行仍有权持有单据要求申请人偿还开证行对受益人的付款而承担的损失或者做出其他类似的安排。总而言之,法官认为针对受益人的索赔,开证行在本案中并无任何值得争辩的抗辩(no arguable defence)。
4)香港高院是否对本案有管辖权。既然本案开证行针对受益人的索赔并无任何值得抗辩或值得审理的争点。
There is no arguable defence or triable issue between the parties.)法官看不出本案
为甚香港高院不是最方便审理本案的法院(There is no reason why the matter cannot most conveniently be dealt with in Hong Kong and I have just done so.)本案的开证行也在香港注册,而受益人也在香港起诉该开证行。而开证行必须举证证明厦门法院是比香港法院更方便审理本案的法院(The burden is on the Bank to establish that Xiamen is a more appropriate forum than Hong Kong.)开证行提出厦门法院是比香港法院更方便审理本案的法院的理由有六点:
i.       受益人的索赔请求仅仅涉及开证行厦门分行。
ii.      所有买卖双方的协商是在卖方的上海办事处和买方的厦门总部之间。
iii.     买卖合同的货物交付是从印度到中国大陆而不是经过香港。
iv.     信用证要求交单付款地在厦门。
v.      有关信用证拒付的协商地点也是在厦门。
vi.     所有潜在的证人都在厦门和上海。但是法官却认为开证行律师的意见无法接受,他认为:在本案中并无真正有
关事实的争议,因此来自于双方证人的口头证词对确定本案的事实和解决本案纠纷并无重要意义。本案的关键争执点在于如何正确解释 UCP600 14、第 15 和第 16 条的规定。如果本案涉及 2008 9 22 日的 SWIFT 电文如何解释的问题,则本法院可以轻松解读这一规定,从而法院可以据此确定这一电文是否代表某一种类的陈述(representation)以及如何是这一种类则其法律上的后果是什么。而香港法院对这一种类问题的快速而有效的解决向来是十分擅长的。
2.3 一审判决。
一审法院判决驳回开证行律师将中止案件审理的请求,同时判决开证行须向受益人支付 2,062,865.43 美元以及依照美元基准利率加百分之一的标准从 2008119日(即向开证行提交单据之次日起计算)直至判决之日的利息。此后的利息将按照判决执行期间的利率和利息计算支付。
3. 案例评论
3.1 案件实体问题。
本案最令人关注的地方不在本案的实体争议,即开证行在本案信用证交单行进行交单、开证行进行审单和做出拒付,以及拒付电文的详细操作过程。当然开证行审单和拒付的操作程序明显是有问题的,也可以说是十分糟糕的。不但开证行在和受益人和交单行之间交涉手法十分糟糕,而且开证行和开证申请人之间的操作也是存在潜在的风险。当然本案仍在香港高院的二审程序中,因此有关案件的实体问题将留待二审法院继续审判,一审法院法官的判决和判决理由虽然相当有说服力,但是由于该判决仍未稳定,而且该判决是有关 UCP600 关键的第 14 条,第 15 条和第 16 条的准确解释有关的,因此我们目前仍无法对有关实体问题做出详细的评论。
3.2 最值得注意的是香港法院行使管辖权问题。
最让笔者关注和吃惊的是本案香港高院对本案有关司法管辖权的确定及其理由,以及由这一先例带来国内开证行在从事相类似国际贸易融资业务时遭到香港法院干涉、从而带来中国大陆司法机构保护的重大风险问题。本案的开证行是中国大陆一家金融机构,基于其境内客户的开证申请,开立以新加坡受益人的信用证。因此无论基础合同铁矿石的基础交易的各方当事人,还是信用证交易的各方当事人,和香港一点瓜葛都没有,唯一有瓜葛的是该大陆开证行是在香港上市的,而本案的新加坡受益人选择在香港起诉境内开证行。
3.3 对在香港上市的大陆银行和金融机构的威胁和风险。
先例一开,恶果自来。换言之,一旦这个先例被香港特区政府高等法院上诉程序中维持,则凡是和境内金融机构存在潜在纠纷的境外对手将不会到中国大陆的法院起诉,而将选择去香港法院起诉。则放眼今日之中国大陆,绝大部分银行包括:中国工商银行、中国银行、中国建设银行,中国农业银行,中国民生银行,中信银行等大银行均已经在香港上市,还有一众已经或者准备在香港上市的小银行,在其赴香港上市后,当其从事国际业务时,一旦和境内外交易对手发生纠纷,则该境外交易对手将不来中国大陆而是像本案的新加坡的当事人一样,径直去香港起诉境内的金融机构的分支机构,一旦境内机构在香港法院败诉,则该胜诉当事人可以直接执行该境内机构在香港的财产。其直接后果是导致境内的银行机构从事国际业务时失去境内司法机构的司法保护,直接的后果之二是可能从司法制度上导致境内金融机构的财务损失,并间接地损害境内金融机构的国际声誉。不是笔者危言耸听,的的确确存在这一风险。更不要说因此而来大陆当事人将面临诉讼费用增加,大陆律师将面临的不利竞争局面等问题。
 
对于本案一审法院在一审判决中表现出来的对于开证行代理律师所提出的有关不方便管辖权的抗辩,法官对这一节有关管辖权的问题几乎没有经过详细说理,也未对开证行代理律师提出的六点理由一一进行细致分析就遽然予以否决,笔者可以从其言辞之间感受其所表现出来的轻蔑和不屑一顾,以及对中国大陆司法制度尤其是大陆法院的不信任或蔑视或轻视,还有对自己能耐的过分自大,这些倾向对往后去香港诉讼的境内当事人都是十分危险的。
 
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