Sunland loses appeal to claim $14m
Gold Coast developer Sunland has lost its bid to claim $14 million in damages from Australian businessmen Matt Joyce and Angus Reed in a stinging legal decision.
Sunland's attempt to overturn three Supreme Court of Victoria judgments against it has been comprehensively rejected by the Court of Appeal, which confirmed the "groundless" basis of many of the developer's trial claims and left it facing a massive costs bill.
Joyce and Reed (in absentia) were recently found guilty of fraud and sentenced to 10 years' jail in Dubai for their involvement in a $63 million waterfront property transaction in the Gulf state in 2007.
The Court of Appeal decision has been welcomed by both men, who claim the judgment "conclusively documents our innocence".
"I remain under house arrest while I focus on my appeal in Dubai," Joyce said in a statement. "I will continue my efforts to bring the findings of the Australian courts to the attention of Dubai and ask that the Australian government use every means at its disposal to help me in that effort."
Sunland's attempt to pursue a civil case in Australia against the men to recoup the $14 million it lost in the deal had been blocked by the Supreme Court. That court also ordered an anti-suit injunction that stopped the developer from taking civil action in Dubai, as well as forcing it to pay the men's special legal costs.
Part of Sunland's appeal involved a novel argument that the anti-suit injunction should be overturned because the Dubai criminal ruling included an order that the money be "returned", which was a "valuable right" that the listed developer should not be restrained from enforcing.
But the Court of Appeal upheld the earlier decisions, agreeing that it was vexatious or oppressive for Sunland to pursue parallel proceedings in Victoria and Dubai.
The court also agreed that evidence provided by a Sunland executive at the Dubai trial had been "fundamentally misleading" and contained "untruthful exaggerations". The developer's bid to avoid paying the legal costs of the Australians was also rejected.
It is not yet clear whether Sunland will challenge the ruling in the High Court.