Moses Wanki Park is a barrister with Liberty Chambers and specializes in cross-border commercial arbitration and litigation based in Hong Kong, which serves as a gateway between China and the rest of the world. In this interview with Asia Law Portal, Moses explains in detail his practice focus, how he came to practice law in Hong Kong, more about Liberty Chambers, and key considerations for companies seeking to do business in China through Hong Kong.
Your practice mainly focuses on conduct and resolution of cross-border and international commercial arbitration and litigation. Tell us more about this.
As Hong Kong serves as a trading gateway between China and the rest of the world and is the finance center in the Asia-Pacific region with a sound financial system and a well-developed finance market, there is no surprise that a large number of trade and business deals are made in Hong Kong. Naturally, when there are so many business dealings there are disputes in connection with or arising from them.
When agreements specify that disputes are to be resolved by Hong Kong courts, then I represent corporate clients in Hong Kong court litigation. In recent years though, we have seen an increase in arbitration cases: commercial and corporate parties tend to opt for arbitration as their preferred method of resolving their international commercial disputes not only in Hong Kong but around the region. I have conducted arbitrations pursuant to the rules of major arbitral institutions; including the ICC, UNCITRAL, HKIAC, SIAC and KCAB.
My clients in commercial disputes have included private equity and investment funds; listed companies in Hong Kong as well as in other major cities in Asia; family offices; banks; and companies in the technology, electronics and semiconductors, manufacturing, construction and mining sectors.
You also advise on regulatory fields, including the provision of advice on matters governed by securities and banking legislation. How does this focus complement your other specialisms in legal advisement related to recovery strategies and emergency relief measures related to fraud?
There has been a rising trend of commercial fraud, asset misappropriation and financial crime in Hong Kong due to different reasons. First, Hong Kong has one of the world’s most active and liquid securities markets. There is no control over capital movement in Hong Kong while Mainland China still maintains strict capital control measures. This means Hong Kong facilitates much of Mainland’s access to foreign capital. Because banking remittance is easy and fast, banking fraud frequently occurs in the city. Second, with the rise of cryptocurrency, Hong Kong has become a hub for cryptocurrency exchanges and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) in Asia. Anyone who is familiar with ICOs which took place in 2017 to 2020 would know that most of these ICOs were scams. And due to the lack of regulatory framework for cryptocurrency exchanges, disputes also arose between the users and the exchanges.
In this connection, I have provided advice to both cryptocurrency exchanges and their users. I have also represented investors who purchased various crypto assets and were scammed by ICO projects. Some major banks and investment firms have fallen prey to email scams. I have represented financial institutions to trace their stolen funds and eventually recovered them from various jurisdictions by obtaining Mareva (asset freezing) injunctions and Norwich Pharmacal (disclosure) orders from the court. In some cases, as I needed to preserve documents for my clients in order to prevent the destruction of evidence, I have applied for Anton Piller (search and seizure) orders.
To provide a taste of some of the commercial fraud cases I work on, I can briefly talk about one interesting case without giving any names. I have been working on a case involving a director’s fraud and breach of fiduciary duties. The director has misappropriated millions of US dollars from the companies and dissipated the funds to many individuals and companies in 6 different jurisdictions. On behalf of my clients in this particular case, I am currently pursuing a claim against 32 defendants.
You’re originally from South Korea. How did your path lead you to a career as a Barrister in Hong Kong?
I was born and bred in Seoul, Korea. But, I went study abroad at the age of 15 and completed my undergraduate studies in the US and graduate studies in the UK. Becoming a disputes lawyer (an advocate) was my childhood dream. When I was studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science, I often walked by Royal Courts of Justice, Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Middle Temple Gardens. As I learned of the difference between a barrister and a solicitor, I became intrigued by the English legal tradition. I thought there would be nothing more cool to be a lawyer and wear a wig when advocating in court.
Having returned home from my studies, I served in the Korean Navy as a surface warfare officer. Towards the end of my naval career, I looked at the map to see where I wanted to practice law. The rise of Asian economy was clear especially after the Financial Crisis of 2008. I wanted to stay in Asia and practice law and international arbitration. I learned that Hong Kong has a common law legal system developed under the British rule. I also learned that barristers in Hong Kong wear wigs, too. My decision was made, then. I came to Hong Kong to visit and to conduct further onsite research on its legal landscape and practice, I found out that Hong Kong was becoming a major arbitration hub in Asia and the center for international arbitration was moving from the West to the East.
Having been a longtime fan of dimsum, I knew Hong Kong would be the best place for me to settle and practice law.
Tell us more about Liberty Chambers
Established by Alexander King SC and Graham Harris SC in 2003, Liberty Chambers is one of the leading set of barristers’ chambers in Hong Kong. Our Head of Chambers, Graham Harris SC is one of the best criminal silks in Hong Kong, well known for his defence work on fraud, corruption and money laundering. We have criminal barristers as well as commercial barristers who are specialists in many areas of commercial law and handle disputes in court litigation and international arbitration.
What should multi-national corporations and businesses and high and ultra-high net worth individuals be paying most close attention to as it relates to their interests in Hong Kong?
As I explained, Hong Kong serves as a gateway to Mainland China and is the financial center not only for China but for the region. As such, many foreign companies and individuals often keep their assets in Hong Kong. However, due to Hong Kong’s free capital flow policy, for liquid assets, they can be easily transferred to other jurisdictions. It is therefore critical to preserve assets of wrongdoers and/or breaching parties when corporations and individuals are faced with legal disputes or trouble even before commencing any legal action.
One may apply for court orders or emergency measures from arbitrators to freeze assets of wrongdoers and/or breaching parties. Time is of the essence as liquid assets can be dissipated in a speedy manner. Even after winning a case by obtaining a court judgment or an arbitral award, there still remains a process of enforcing the judgment or arbitral award. Success in litigation or arbitration is fruitiness against an opponent with no assets to enforce against or located in a jurisdiction which will not recognize a foreign judgment or arbitral award.