Mauritius, a Global Centre for legal services. Coming soon: the Mauritian legislation will be established in a new Special Development Region in Honduras
Mauritius has inherited a very unique hybrid legal system derived from both the French Code Napoleon and the British common law. The country’s geographical location, supporting administrative infrastructure, extensive DTAA network, cordial diplomatic relations reinforce its image as a centre of reference for dispute resolution.
The Mauritian Government, in its continuous efforts to adapt to the realities of globalization and to position Mauritius as an International Services Centre (ISC) of choice, has developed an enabling legal services environment. The Budget Speech 2007 was the conduit to announce several major amendments to the existing Law Practitioners Act 1984 [the Act] which now caters for the setting up and functioning of law firms, foreign law firms and joint law ventures. The Act also provides for a framework for the regulation of the practice of foreign law and international law in Mauritius. Mauritius has proven to be an attractive jurisdiction for firms looking to capitalise on opportunities within the legal field. To date, several foreign firms have already entered into joint ventures and have set up office in Mauritius.
Mauritius has continued assiduously to pursue its ambition of becoming an international services centre offering legal services. The ratification of the New York Convention for the Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards and the proclamation of the International Arbitration Act (IAA) 2008, with the direct backing of the Prime Minister, were very positive steps in Mauritius’ ambition to be the global African centre for legal services. The IAA is based on the UNCITRAL Model Law for International Commercial Arbitration of 1985, as amended in 2006. The Model Law reflects a worldwide consensus on key aspects of international arbitration practice, accepted by countries of all regions and by the different legal and economic systems of the world. The most innovative feature of this new law is the permanent office of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Mauritius. This is the first such office outside The Hague, created as a result of the Host Country Agreement which the Government of Mauritius concluded with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in April 2009.
To consolidate its position to become Africa's centre for international dispute resolution, in July 2011 the Mauritius International Arbitration Centre Ltd (MIAC) and the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) entered into an agreement for the establishment and operation of a new arbitration centre in Mauritius, to be known as LCIA-MIAC Arbitration Centre. The bold practical steps that Mauritius has taken to establish itself as a regional centre for resolving cross-border disputes match its ambition to become an international services centre.
Recently, Mauritius has been requested by the Honduran Government to establish the Mauritian legislation in a new Special Development Region (SDR) that is currently being developed in Honduras, a republic in Central America. The latter has requested that the Supreme Court of Mauritius acts as the court of appeal for the judicial system that is being established in the SDR.
Honduras is creating this SDR to attract foreign direct investment and substantially boost employment. The Honduran Congress has already amended its constitution and passed enabling legislations for this new zone. The law permits the judiciary in the SDR to use the Supreme Court of another country as its court of appeal. The President of Honduras has formally requested that the Supreme Court of Mauritius serves this role. Chief Justice Y K J Yeung Sik Yuen, in consultation with other members of government, has agreed.
Furthermore, Honduras and Mauritius will sign two additional agreements: a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement and an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. Mauritius will thus serve as a conduit for foreign investment into this new Special Development Region.
The Governments of both countries strongly believe that this historic agreement will ensure an independent judiciary in the new zone and thereby encourage more investment, particularly in infrastructure. This agreement can then serve as a model for arrangements that Mauritius could make with other countries that would like to use the services of a well-established, trusted judicial system. These kinds of agreements could further enhance the position of Mauritius as a financial hub, as a gateway for investment into the developing world, and as a pioneer in the provision of legal services.