Jamaica’s Michael Lee-Chin Awarded $43 Million in Dispute with Dominican Republic

In an investment dispute with the Dominican Republic, Jamaican business magnate Michael Lee-Chin was granted more than US$43 million.

In the case involving questions of first impression under the Caricom-DR Free Trade Agreement (Treaty), Lee-Chin received a Final Award from a UNCITRAL Arbitral Tribunal. This comes on the heels of his earlier triumph in the case, in which he got a favorable Partial Award on Jurisdiction (given in July 2020).

Lee-Chin filed the claim against the Dominican Republic under the Treaty in connection with his ownership of Lajun Corporation SA, a Dominican business with a long-term concession arrangement to oversee a landfill in Santo Domingo. Adrian Christopher Lee-Chin, Lee-Chin’s son and Lajun’s general manager, oversaw the concession.

In 2017, the Dominican Republic acquired military control of the landfill and filed local actions to void and terminate the concession on the grounds of an alleged environmental emergency.

Lee-Chin filed an investment arbitration case against the Dominican Republic as a result of what he said were several Treaty violations, including various arbitrary measures meant to force him to run the dump without getting a fair tipping charge.

The Arbitral Tribunal issued its Final Award in favor of Lee-Chin after more than five years of arbitral proceedings, multiple rounds of substantive briefs (jurisdictional and merits), two document production phases, a two-day jurisdictional hearing, a six-day final hearing on the merits, and significant post-hearing briefings.

The Tribunal found that the Dominican Republic violated its Treaty responsibilities regarding expropriation and fair and equitable treatment, as well as the Treaty’s umbrella provision, in the Final Award. The Arbitral Tribunal ordered the Dominican Republic to pay Lee-Chin an amount in excess of US$43.59 million, plus interest, as restitution for these offenses.

The Tribunal rejected all remaining jurisdictional objections filed by the Dominican Republic, agreeing with Lee-Chin’s arguments, and held that “the termination of the Concession Agreement was part of a larger effort by the State to actually eject Claimant from the operation of the investment.”

In addition, the Tribunal determined that “no pattern of reasonableness or plausible justifications may be discerned in [the Dominican Republic’s] changing attitudes throughout the investment.”

As a result, the Arbitral Tribunal determined that the Dominican Republic “must compensate Claimant for the damages that it actually caused as a result of violating its obligations under the terms of the Treaty.”

Lee-Chin stated after reviewing the Final Award that he “was very pleased with the result and that he was finally vindicated.” He then went on to say that he “expects the Dominican Republic will immediately satisfy the Final Award and evidence to the investor community, including all Jamaican investors, that the Dominican Republic once found liable honors its international obligations.”

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