10 Jan Attachment of movables or debts in hands of third person
Attachment of movables or debts in hands of third person
by George Coucounis
“It is a method of execution to satisfy a Court judgment”
THE attachment of a property in the hands of a third person is a method of execution of a Court judgment and can be used when the judgment debtor is entitled to a sum of money, securities for money, goods and movable property which are in the hands of a third person. When the debtor hasn’t satisfied the judgment issued against him and has an interest in movables or debts that are under the custody or control of a third person, the Court may, at the request of the creditor, issue an order for their attachment until the third person appears before the Court and is examined with regard to the said property in his hands. The purpose of the writ is the safe custody of the property referred to in it and when it is in the hands or under the control of a public officer in his official capacity, it is subject to attachment for the execution of a judgment only with the consent of the Attorney General.
Any person to whom a writ of attachment in the hands of a third person was served is obliged to comply with the order, otherwise he is considered to have disobeyed the order with all the relevant consequences. From the time of the service of the writ to the third person, all the amounts of money, securities for money, goods and movable property to which the judgment debtor is beneficially entitled whether solely or jointly with others, and which at the time of the service of the writ, or at any time before it is dissolved, become securities in his hands for the satisfaction of the claim of the judgment creditor, unless there is a bona fide prior title thereto or lien or charge thereon.
The relevant provisions of articles 14, 73, 74 and 78 of the Civil Procedure Law, Cap.6, which concern the execution of a judgment with the attachment of property in the hands of a third person were examined by the Supreme Court in a decision dated 30.12.2021. The case concerned an appeal filed by a gymnastics club against a first instance judgment, ordering it, in the context of an attachment procedure in the hands of a third person, to pay a certain amount to the judgment debtor of a football club which used the gymnastic club’s stadium for football matches.
The Court, referring to the applicable principles, stressed that the procedure for the execution of a Court judgment with the attachment of property in the hands of a third person is of investigative nature and aims at verifying the existence of a debt from the sequestrator to the judgment debtor. It must be demonstrated that the judgment hasn’t been satisfied yet and that there is a creditor-debtor relationship between the judgment debtor and the third person (sequestrator), with the order of attachment being an act which falls within the discretion of the Court. It added that the attachment order may relate to property which at the time of the service of the order, or at any other time before its removal, is or may come under the custody or control of the sequestrator. In the particular case, the Court did not agree with the suggestion of the gymnastics club that they should keep the proceeds of the games themselves, since the games hadn’t been held. This is because, by its very nature, the proceedings at issue also concerned the future collection of sums of money while the attachment order remained in force, something which is in line with case law.
Furthermore, it agreed that the Court of first instance acted within its jurisdiction and it correctly underlined the enforceability of the attachment order over the management agreement relied on by the gymnastics club as sequestrator. The Court of first instance stated that any other interpretation which recognises the right of the sequestrator to decide that his own agreement should precede a Court decision, let alone that it gives him the right not to obey the provisions of a Court order, would not have been reasonable and would leave compliance with the judicial orders in the selection of the sequestrator.
The Supreme Court added that the enforcement of judgments is directly linked to the validity of the judicial process, as well as the credibility of the judiciary depends on its effectiveness, otherwise distrust is created for its mission, with similar corrosive consequences. For this reason, the means of enforcement provided by law should not end in vain, except in perfectly justified cases, concluding that there was no reason for the Court to intervene and dismissed the appeal.