Malaysian ex-staff suing Norway's Aker Solutions obtains court order to serve documents in Europe

Malaysian ex-staff suing Norway's Aker Solutions obtains court order to serve documents in Europe
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KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 31): A former staff of Aker Solutions ASA (Norway), who had sued the oil services firm for alleged abuse of court process, has received the go-ahead to serve her court papers on her former employer in Europe.

A High Court order obtained by Seetha Kumarasamy last month, sighted by theedgemarket.com today, allows her to serve the documents out of Malaysia's jurisdiction, and it is understood that she will do so after the documents are translated.

The Norwegian firm will have 21 days to respond to the suit upon receiving the documents.

Three Malaysian units of Aker Solutions, which have also been named as defendants in the suit, have already responded. They have appointed the legal firm of Skrine & Co to represent them.

Seetha, formerly a legal director with Aker Solutions, filed her suit on Nov 30 last year.

Aker Solutions is Norway's largest oil services company, and the three Malaysian units — Aker Solutions Malaysia Sdn Bhd, Aker Engineering Malaysia Sdn Bhd and Aker Solutions APAC Sdn Bhd — have several contracts with Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas).

Seetha filed her suit after Aker Solutions allegedly sued her in 2018 to suppress evidence and prevent her from speaking out amid a corruption probe into the firm's dealings with Petronas, Reuters reported last month.

Aker Solutions denied the allegation and accused Seetha of breaching her confidentiality obligations to the firm.

A source familiar with the matter revealed that the company had obtained a court gag order barring anyone from reporting about the suit.

It is understood that a case management of her suit took place on Friday (Jan 29) before High Court deputy registrar Maslinda Selamat when several practice directions were issued.

According to the Reuters report, the probe conducted by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) was over alleged false representations made by Aker Solutions regarding the ownership of one of its Malaysian units in order to win licences from Petronas. The Norwegian firm denied this and claimed it provided information about its company set-up and organisation to the MACC.

Theedgemarkets.com has for the past two weeks tried to get independent confirmation from the MACC on whether there had been probes since 2018, but chief commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki denied to reveal details when contacted.

*Asked to assist MACC probe, ordered to hand over laptop

Aker Solutions sued Seetha and obtained a court order to seize her laptop and gain access to her email accounts in 2018 after she was ordered by the MACC to assist in its probe. She was fired in February 2018 after being suspended earlier.

Seetha claimed Aker Solutions' actions amounted to an abuse of process and conspiracy. She sought unspecified damages for legal costs, anxiety and mental distress her former employer had caused her in filing the 2018 suit, as well as loss of reputation and credibility.

In its response, Aker Solutions said its 2018 suit was aimed at protecting its private information and accused Seetha of divulging confidential matters to third parties. It denied its legal actions were an abuse of process, saying its suit was "independent of and does not concern the plaintiff's communications with the MACC".

The firm also filed a counterclaim and applied to strike out Seetha's suit on it, and wanted a stay of proceedings of the suit by the former employee.

It further claimed in its defence and counterclaim filed on Dec 24 that two weeks after Seetha filed her amended writ and statement of claim on the MACC's investigations into Aker Solutions, the matter was disclosed to various media organiations.

"This had resulted in Aker Solutions being exposed to adverse publicity and adverse business repercussions. As a result of the suit, we claim it is an abuse of process and had resulted in the three local companies to suffer loss and damage including legal costs in respect of these present proceedings," it said in its defence.

Seetha, in her affidavit in reply to the defence and counterclaim, said she is seeking a genuine redress against the defendants.

"The facts pleaded in the amended statement of claim support [my claim] of causes of action for abuse of process and unlawful means conspiracy," she said.

A case management of Aker Solutions' suit against Seetha has been fixed for Feb 4 after hearing scheduled for this month did not proceed.

Read also:

Norway's Aker Solutions sued by ex-employee amid Malaysia graft probe

Malaysia probing Norway's Aker Solutions over Petronas dealings, sources say

S Kanagaraju