III. Accurately ascertain the BVI Business Companies Act and correctly determine the lex loci delicti (the place of the delict) according to the rules of conflict of laws
—Yang Xinzhou v. Yuichiro Hori for dispute over liability for damaging shareholders’ interests
本案系损害股东利益责任纠纷。2013 年,Stellarworks Holding Ltd.(以下简称 SW 控股公司)在英属维尔京群岛注册成立,股东为堀雄一朗和杨新宙二人, 持股比例分别为 70%和 30%,堀雄一朗被任命为董事。SW 控股公司系 Stellarworks Investment Ltd.(以下简称 SW 投资公司)全资股东,SW 投资公司系富迅国际贸易有限公司(以下简称富讯公司)全资股东。2014年3月,Stellarworks International Ltd.(以下简称 SW 国际公司)在英属维尔京群岛注册成立,股东为堀雄一朗,持股比例 100%。SW 控股公司拟将其持有的 SW 投资公司全部股份转让给 SW 国际公司,对 SW 投资公司唯一实质性资产即富迅公司资产进行了评估。评估过程中堀雄一朗向评估公司提出了若干建议,后堀雄一朗作为 SW 控股公司的唯一董事批准了股份转让协议。杨新宙认为,堀雄一朗作为 SW 控股公司的大股东、唯一董事,在转让公司资产给自己名下其他公司时,故意压低评估价格,损害了小股东杨新宙的利益,因此主张其赔偿损失。
This case is about the dispute over liability for damaging shareholders’ interests. In 2013, Stellarworks Holding Ltd. (SW Holding Company) was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, with two shareholders: Yuichiro Hori and Yang Xinzhou, each holding 70% and 30% equity. Yuichiro Hori was appointed as the director. SW Holding Company was a wholly-owned shareholder of Stellarworks Investment Ltd. (SW Investment Company), which was a wholly-owned shareholder of Fuxun International Trade Co., Ltd. (Fuxun Company). In March 2014, Stellarworks International Ltd. (SW International Company) was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, with one shareholder: Yuichiro Hori, holding 100% equity. SW Holding Company intended to transfer all its shares in SW Investment Company to SW International Company, and evaluated the assets of Hong Kong Fuxun Company, the only substantive asset of SW Investment Company. During the evaluation, Yuichiro Hori made several suggestions to the evaluation company. As the sole director of SW Holding Company, Yuichiro Hori then approved the Share Transfer Agreement. Yang Xinzhou believed that Yuichiro Hori, as the majority shareholder and the only director of SW Holding Company, deliberately lowered the evaluation price when transferring the company’s assets to another company under his name, damaging the interests of the minority shareholder Yang Xinzhou, and therefore Yang Xinzhou claimed against Yuichiro Hori for compensation.
上海市闵行区人民法院认为,堀雄一朗系日本国公民,杨新宙以堀雄一朗在执行 SW 控股公司事务时侵害其的股东权益为由主张赔偿。本案属涉外侵权纠纷, 应根据《中华人民共和国涉外民事关系法律适用法》第四十四条的规定,本案所涉侵权责任问题应适用侵权行为地法律。因杨新宙所主张侵权行为为股权转让行为,故侵权行为地为 SW 投资公司的住所地。SW 投资公司住所地位于英属维尔京群岛,故本案应适用英属维尔京群岛法律。杨新宙为此提供了《2004 年英属维尔京群岛商业公司法》法条规定和律师法律意见书,上海市闵行区人民法院认为,根据英属维尔京群岛法律,若杨新宙作为 SW 控股公司股东的权利受到堀雄一朗执行 SW 控股公司事务时的不公平行为损害,则杨新宙有权向堀雄一朗主张赔偿。
Minhang District Primary People's Court of Shanghai Municipality found that Yuichiro Hori was a citizen of Japan, and Yang Xinzhou claimed compensation against Yuichiro Hori on the grounds that Yuichiro Hori infringed upon Yang Xinzhou’s shareholders’ rights in the execution of SW Holding Company’s affairs. This case is a foreign-related infringement dispute, which should be governed by the law determined by Article 44 of the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Application of Law on Foreign-related Civil Relations. The liabilities for delict in this case should be governed by the lex loci delicti commissi, i.e., the law of the place where the delict was committed. Given the delict claimed by Yang Xinzhou was an equity transfer, the place where the equity was located, i.e., the place where SW Investment Company was domiciled, shall be the place where the direct result of the delict occurred. Therefore, the place of delict shall be the domicile of SW Investment Company, i.e., the British Virgin Islands; the law of the British Virgin Islands shall apply to this case. Considering the provisions of the ascertained law and the lawyer’s legal opinions, the Minhang District Primary People's Court of Shanghai Municipality held that according to the laws of the British Virgin Islands, if Yang Xinzhou’s rights as a shareholder of the SW Holding Company were damaged due to the unfair execution of the SW Holding Company’s affairs by Yuichiro Hori, Yang Xinzhou had the right to claim against Yuichiro Hori.
Yuichiro Hori filed an appeal, requesting the law of the People’s Republic of China, i.e., the common habitual residence of both parties, be applied in this case.
The Shanghai First Intermediate People's Court held that, such evidence as foreigner work permit provided by Yuichiro Hori was insufficient to prove that his habitual residence was within the territory of the People’s Republic of China. The concept of "place of domicile" in the determination of case jurisdiction is not the same as that of "place of habitual residence" in the above-mentioned legal provisions. Therefore, it is not improper for the court of first instance to apply the lex loci delicti commissi, i.e., the law of the British Virgin Islands.
本案涉及公司类侵权案件的法律适用问题,侵权行为发生在英属维尔京群岛,但根据侵权案件法律适用的有关规定,当事人有共同经常居所地的,适用共同经常居所地法律。本案争议焦点之一即是双方是否均以上海为共同经常居所地,本案应适用英属维尔京群岛法律还是我国法律。堀雄一朗提供了其在上海有房产、 工作等证据,但出入境记录显示其在涉案行为发生期间频繁往来于日本和上海, 因此法院认定其证据不足以证明其经常居所地在上海。法院最终根据英属维尔京群岛官方网站上的法律条文、杨新宙提交的翻译件、杨新宙委托的当地律师出具的法律意见书查明了英属维尔京群岛相关法律,作出了判决。本案对同类案件的法律适用、侵权行为认定具有典型示范意义。
This case concerns the application of law for company-related delict. The delict occurred in the British Virgin Islands. However, according to the relevant provisions on the application of law in delict cases, if the parties concerned have a common habitual residence, the law of common habitual residence shall apply. One of the disputed issues in this case is whether both parties take Shanghai as their common habitual residence? Should the law of the British Virgin Islands or the law of China be applied in this case? Yuichiro Hori provided evidence that he had real estate and worked in Shanghai, but the entry-exit records showed that he frequently traveled between Japan and Shanghai during the occurrence of the delict. Therefore, the court found that his evidence was insufficient to prove that his habitual residence was Shanghai. The court finally ascertained the relevant laws of the British Virgin Islands and rendered a judgment according to the legal provisions on the official website of the British Virgin Islands, the translation submitted by Yang Xinzhou and the legal opinion issued by the local lawyer entrusted by Yang Xinzhou. This case is of great reference value for the application of law and the finding of delict in similar cases.