LONDON (Reuters) - French investment bank Societe Generale on Monday asked for an adjournment to push back the date of a trial in a long-running dispute with Libya’s $67 billion sovereign wealth fund over a series of trades entered into between 2007 and 2009.
At London’s High Court, Adrian Beltrami, a lawyer acting for SocGen, requested an adjournment, citing the amount of work that still needed to be done before the three-month trial is scheduled to start on January 23, 2017.
The Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) is pursuing the French bank for some $2.1 billion in relation to the disputed trades.
In court filings seen by Reuters, the LIA alleges the trades were procured through a “fraudulent and corrupt scheme” involving the payment of $58.5 million to a Panamanian-registered company called Lenaida, controlled at the time by Libyan businessman Walid Giahmi.
SocGen has said it refutes the allegations and “any claim tending to question the lawfulness of these investments”.
Giahmi’s representatives have not responded to repeated requests for comment on the case.
Beltrami said that a parallel investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice had added to the workload, which meant that the timetable for the case had become very compressed.
A subpoena originally served on the New York branch of SocGen in April 2014 requires the production of all documents in the investment bank’s possession or control regarding its business in Libya from 2004 to April 2014.
The LIA’s response to the adjournment application, set out in its court filings, was that there was no need to move the trial date, which had been fixed since November 2014.
It argued that SocGen’s disclosure exercise had been running for 22 months, which was more than ample time for a litigant with SocGen’s resources to complete standard disclosure.
Beltrami also requested the adjournment on the grounds that the leadership dispute between two rival chairmen of the LIA — Hassan Bouhadi and AbdulMagid Breish — had yet to be resolved.
As an interim measure, advisers BDO were appointed by the court in July 2015 to manage the litigation on the LIA’s behalf.
However, Beltrami said the subsequent establishment of a United Nations-backed unity government in Libya had complicated matters.
“There’s now a risk that both of them is the wrong person and has no authority,” said Beltrami. “It’s the lack of clarity that causes the concern.”
In its court filings the LIA said the receivership posed no real risk to any of the defendants and provided no justification for an adjournment.
The LIA is also pursuing Goldman Sachs for $1.2 billion in a separate litigation. The trial is ongoing in London’s High Court and Goldman Sachs is contesting the case vigorously.
Reporting by Claire Milhench; Editing by Catherine Evans