Lawyers advising Iranian oil and gas companies as well as Russian banks on sanctions – meanwhile, new foreign investment law in Cuba is incentivising investors
Advising clients affected by sanctions imposed by the international community provides a rich source of work for lawyers with the relevant expertise, says José María Viñals, partner and director of international operations at Lupicinio International Law Firm. “When the European Union imposes sanctions on companies and individuals – as well as on industries and products – they have the right to challenge these sanctions and we are there to help clients to do so,” he adds.
In this respect, Viñals has advised Iranian oil and gas companies as well as Russian banks on challenges to EU sanctions – cases that involved appearing before the European Court of Justice based in Luxembourg. He adds that there has also been a demand for legal advice from a number of governments requesting assistance with analyses of EU sanctions and the development of strategies to challenge them. “Clients seeking to invest, or do business, in countries affected by sanctions also require advice on dealing with such sanctions prior to starting or developing their operations,” Viñals says.
With regard to opportunities in other jurisdictions, Viñals identifies Cuba – where Lupicinio has had a presence since 1996 – as having significant potential, particularly because of the Foreign Investment Law that was introduced in 2014. “The Cuban business environment has improved considerably in recent years, owing to the development of a foreign investment law in addition to a number of measures that have been introduced to provide incentives for foreign investors,” he says.
Another key area of work for the firm is advising international clients seeking to develop projects in Cuba. Lupicinio has been authorised by the Cuban Ministry of Justice to enter into an official mutual alliance with a Cuban law firm, Bufete Internacional, with the purpose of delivering joint legal services to clients.
Meanwhile, Viñals argues that Iran will have a major role to play in the world economy in the next ten years. “Spanish companies should take advantage of the opportunities that are emerging in Iran,” he says. “Once the country has adapted its banking system to meet the requirements of international trading standards and modernised its administration and information technology, it will be crucial for businesses to place themselves in ‘pole position’ in order to profit from a market of 80 million potential consumers demanding services from the engineering, infrastructure, transport, machinery, agro-food and tourism industries. It is exactly these sectors in which Spanish businesses are highly regarded in Iran.”
Lupicinio has also taken the step of establishing offices in Dubai, Algiers and Tehran, due to client demand for legal services in the relevant jurisdictions. “Dubai is one of the most important business hubs in the world, and we had been operating there long before we took the decision to open our own office,” Viñals says. Lupicinio’s presence in Dubai takes the form of a strategic partnership with BSA. BSA is a local firm consisting of 50 lawyers, where a number of Lupicinio lawyers are now based – BSA has offices in Muscat (Oman), Beirut (Lebanon), Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Erbil (Iraq) and Abu Dhabi, Ras-Al-Khaimah and Sharjah (United Arab Emirates).
The presence in Algiers was established to cover North Africa and was “in response to high demand from our clients,” according to Viñals. The team in Algiers provides services primarily to clients in the agricultural, engineering, construction and transport industries. With regard to Tehran, Viñals says: “Thanks to the international sanctions practice, we have gained the confidence of clients and developed strategic partnerships with significant local firms in Iran and in Russia – this has led us to establish a representative office in Tehran, as well as to construct valuable alliances with firms in Russia.”
“Local knowledge is vital when serving clients in foreign jurisdictions,” argues Viñals. “We believe that a local professional will always know the local norms and environment best and that the client will feel more secure when the local firm fully understands their business and investment,” he says. “Consequently, our role is to act in conjunction with our local colleagues and ensure that the work we carry out corresponds to the client’s specific needs and circumstances.”