Monday, February 20, 2017

Judicial Confession, Taping and Recorded Tapes

Anyone involved in a public prosecution or a commercial investigation should be aware of their rights (and the law) with regard to giving a confession.
Confessions in civil cases
Article 57 of the new Evidence Law defines “confession” as the admission by a person of [committing] a legal fact to another person, with the purpose of proving his commission of that fact by such person and such admission may be judicial or non-judicial.  Accordingly, a judicial confession is conclusive and absolute evidence against the confessor, confined to him, and binding to a court.  The confession may not be divisible, unless it has been made in respect of a number of events, and the existence of one of these events does not necessarily mean, or prove, the existence of the others.  Properly obtained judicial confessions are evidence against the confessor, and the confessor may not retract such a confession.
Confessions in criminal cases
Article 190 provides that if at any time the accused admits that he is guilty, the court shall hear his statements in detail and cross-examine him.  If it is satisfied that the confession is sound and sufficient, it may abandon the remaining proceedings, or some of them, and decide the case.  That is, the Supreme Court has confirmed that a confession in a criminal case may have a conclusive role in that case.  However, such evidence shall be subject to an assessment by the subject matter court, with no control or influence from the Supreme Court. The subject matter court may accept the confession of the accused following its investigations.  In respect of a confession, the subject matter court will seek to understand the motivation and grounds behind the giving of the confession, and assess whether or not it has been given based on evidence, liberty, perception and understanding, or, has been given subject to coercion. 
How is improperly obtained evidence treated?  Can such evidence be admissible?
A confession may be inadmissible if it was obtained illegally; however, any material evidence that is discovered as a result of such confession may still be admissible.  An accused may not avoid punishment simply for reasons of evidence having been obtained illegally.
A confession made under coercion is inadmissible, even if there is evidence confirming its accuracy.  If an accused maintained his confession after the coercion ceased to exist, it would be treated as a new confession.  In order to establish that a confession was obtained under coercion, the burden of proof lies with the claimant (i.e., the claimant must prove that his confession was obtained through coercion such as being tied up, restrained, arrested or guarded).  
Confessor’s retraction
A confession may, in certain circumstances, be retracted.  The retraction of a confession may be overlooked if the crime can be established with sufficient evidence supporting the confession.  It has been argued that with regard to major crimes, the retraction of a confession does not cancel the confession, but other evidence is required, even circumstantial evidence, in this regard.
Call recording and tapping and recorded tapes as evidence
Article 90 of the Criminal Procedures law states that Correspondence and cables may not be confiscated or perused, newspapers, publications and parcels may not be confiscated, conversation taking place at a private place may not be recorded, the telephone may not be tapped and the dialogue may not be recorded without the permission of the Public Prosecutor.  The permission specified in article 90 of this Law shall be issued if the Public Prosecutor is of the view that it would be useful evidence where there is a suspected offence or misdemeanor that would be punishable by imprisonment for a period exceeding three months.  The permission shall be substantiated and its period shall not exceed 30 days subject to renewal for similar periods, if required.
Moreover, article 30 of the Basic Law states that the freedom of correspondence by post, telegraph, telephone, or other means of communication is protected and its confidentiality guaranteed.  Hence it is unlawful to monitor, search, disclose the confidentiality, delay or confiscate the same except in cases specified by the law and in accordance with the procedures prescribed therein.
Any person involved in a public prosecution or commercial investigation should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible and, in any event, before giving a confession.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Environmental Law in Oman

The desire for a green and pollution-free environment in Oman grows every year, as the world seeks to tackle the ill effects of global warming and other environmental concerns.  As the world gears up to combat this threat, the Sultanate of Oman has put a series of laws in place to protect its land and territorial waters against pollution.  Protection of habitats has been achieved through the environmental permit system implemented under Sultani Decree 10/82 (now replaced by Sultani Decree 114/01).  The Sultanate has always sought to strike a balance between the needs of development and the environment.  Industrial construction projects must be reviewed and certified by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (the “MOECA”) before commencement.  When reviewing a proposed construction project, the MOECA examines the possibility of damage to the environment and ensures that all measures have been taken to minimise pollution from waste products prior to giving its approval.
Legislation for wildlife protection and nature conservation is mainly in the form of Sultani Decrees and Ministerial Decisions.  The management and action plans for all protected areas are strictly implemented.  Sultani Decree 34/74, issuing the Marine Pollution Control Law, seeks to ensure the safety of the marine environment.  Sultani Decree 68/79, establishing the Council for Conservation of Environment and Prevention of Pollution, was followed by Sultani Decree 10/82 (replaced by Sultani Decree 114/01), issuing the Law on Conservation of the Environment and Prevention of Pollution, which laid the practical and scientific basis for private and public practices in environmental fields.  This was further strengthened by the issue of Sultani Decree 45/84 establishing the Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources as the first ministry of its kind in the Arab world.
Marine pollution
One of the most significant laws concerning the protection of the environment in Oman is the law on the Control of Marine Pollution (Sultani Decree 34/74).  Under this law, no person has the right to discharge any pollutant in the pollution-free zone from a ship, shore location or oil transport facility.  
Moreover, no ship has the right to discharge any pollutant in the pollution-free zone and each day of a violation is considered as a separate violation.  No ship owner or any owner or operator of a shore location or oil transport facility has the right to disregard any of its obligations under the law.  Any owner or operator of the shore location or oil transport facility violating the law subsequent to a third offence may be liable to be deprived, either temporarily or permanently, of any or all of the rights granted by the Government.  The pollution control officer, or any other person appointed by the MOECA in charge of implementing this law, is empowered to arrest any person who has committed an offence punishable with imprisonment in accordance with this law, and to detain such person until the issue is resolved; the officer may also detain and seize any ship in violation of the law.  If a pollutant has been discharged in the pollution-free zone, the owner of that ship or the owner or operator of that shore location or oil transport facility, as the case may be, will be liable for, inter alia, costs borne by the Government in order to mitigate or eliminate the pollution, and the damages suffered by the Government and/or any other person.
Solid non-hazardous waste
The Regulations for the Management of Solid Non-Hazardous Waste (MD 17/93) deal with solid non-hazardous waste, including any solid or semi-solid material, which does not pose any danger to the environment or to the human health, if it is dealt with in a safe scientific way.  Household waste and solid materials from commercial and industrial establishments are included in non-hazardous waste.  The occupants of premises which are used for commercial or industrial purposes are required to store and dispose of solid non-hazardous waste in accordance with the provisions of these regulations, so that there is no nuisance or hazard to public health.
The user of a commercial or industrial site which produces solid non-hazardous waste is obliged to collect the waste and transport it in a safe manner to a site designated by the relevant authority for the purpose.  The law does not permit any person to dispose of solid non-hazardous waste in places other than designated places.  No solid non-hazardous waste should be mixed with any category of hazardous waste at any time.  Various authorities responsible for the day-to-day operation and management of the collection and disposal of solid non-hazardous waste need to obtain permits and licenses from the MOECA.
Hazardous waste
The Regulations for the Management of Hazardous Waste (MD 18/93) deal with hazardous waste, including any waste arising from commercial, industrial or any other activities, which due to its nature, composition, quantity or for any other reason is hazardous or threatens to be hazardous to the environment.  Any storage facility for hazardous waste must be duly licensed by the MOECA.  This law requires all hazardous waste to be labeled and packed according to the provisions stipulated in this respect.  Every hazardous waste generator should store the hazardous waste in approved storage facilities on its land, or at its premises, until it is removed in accordance with the terms of the license issued by the MOECA.  Hazardous waste must be transported by vehicles licensed by the MOECA to collect, handle, store and dispose of hazardous waste outside the waste generator’s premises. 
Waste water re-use and discharge
The Regulations for Wastewater Re-Use and Discharge were promulgated through MD 145/93 and provide that the discharge of any wastewater or sludge into the environment, in whatever form or conditions, is prohibited without a permit to discharge from the MOECA.  Further, this law provides for the regulation of the quality of wastewater and its re-use.  Before re-use, the wastewater or sludge is tested to determine the quantity of various metals in it and its pH value.  Those with high concentrations of metals must be disposed of in sanitary landfills with the prior approval of the MOECA.  Wastewater must be discharged only where re-use is not possible.  The MOECA may supervise the samples of wastewater at any place at any time.
Whilst there are many other laws that have been issued to ensure the safekeeping of the environment, the above laws are some of the most important in relation to wastewater, management of waste and marine pollution.


Monday, February 6, 2017

The Right to Bring a Commercial Claim against a Non-Contractual Party under Omani Law

Similar to what is commonly referred to as a “tort” claim in many common law jurisdictions, Omani law principally recognises a party’s right to bring a commercial claim against a non-contracting party.
Specifically, it is an established principle in Omani law to allow a party to pursue a claim against a non-contracting party when an exchange or incident, and the resultant claim, involves only two entities.  However, in scenarios involving three parties, a party’s right to bring a claim against its non-contracting party may differ, particularly in construction contracts. 
This article will explore the circumstances under which a party is legally permitted to bring a claim against a non-contracting party.  It will also explore the circumstances in which it is impermissible for a party to bring a claim against a party with whom its relationship is not rooted in contract.
The right to file suit against a non-contractual party in a two-party transaction
The right to sue a non-contracting party, in scenarios involving two parties, was confirmed by the Supreme Court in its judgment number 160/2008.  In this case the Supreme Court held that a party may bring a claim against a non-contracting party seeking recompense for actual and reasonably foreseeable losses when its losses arise from a “wrongful act” or “harmful act. The Supreme Court further explained that “the basic rule followed in law is that anything done or said which causes harm to any other person is deemed to constitute a failure to observe the legal obligation incumbent upon all men not to inflict harm on any other person without lawful cause.
Naturally, the Supreme Court’s position is consistent with what was established by the Omani legislature in 2013 in the Omani Civil Code (“Civil Code”), promulgated by Royal Decree 29/2013.  Article 176 of the Civil Code, which is located under the chapter titled Harmful Acts, provides that a party shall be liable for “any harm to others” – that is, irrespective of whether the two parties have a contractual relationship.
Very importantly, the facts presented before the Supreme Court in Case No 160/2008 involved only two parties.  As we discuss below, the right to sue a non-contractual party in scenarios involving three parties may be different under Omani law.
The right to a sue a non-contracting party in scenarios involving three parties
Under Omani law, a party may be precluded from bringing a claim against a non-contracting party, specifically in commercial transactions involving three parties.  A common example in which this scenario arises is with construction-related contracts – such as when an employer (or project owner) has a contractual relationship with only a main contractor, and a sub-contractor also only has contractual relationship with the same main contractor.  Thus, although the employer and sub-contractor are both involved on the same transaction, they do not have a contractual relationship with one another; rather, both the employer and sub-contractor have mutually exclusive contracts with a third-party intermediary, the main contractor.
In the event that a sub-contractor believes that an employer’s conduct has caused the sub-contractor to sustain damages, the sub-contractor does not have the legal right to bring a claim against the employer under Omani law.  Again, this is irrespective of whether the sub-contractor considers the employer’s ‘harmful’ or ‘wrongful’ acts to be a direct cause for it having sustained losses.  The sub-contractor’s only right of recourse will be against its own contractual counterparty, the main contractor; not the employer.
This principle has been established by case law, most notably by the Supreme Court in Case No 364/1994.  Therein, the Supreme Court stated that the “general principles of independence of privity” precluded a sub-contractor from bringing a direct claim against the employer.  In other words, the lack of a contract between the employer and the sub-contractor meant that the sub-contractor could not bring a direct claim against the employer.
The Supreme Court’s position set out in its 364/1994 decision has also been confirmed by the Civil Code.  Article 645 of the Civil Code provides that “a sub-contractor shall have no claim against the employer for anything due to him from the first contractor…. Thus, a sub-contractor’s right for recourse is limited to claims only against its contractual counterparty, the main contractor.
Recoverable damages against non-contracting third parties
As discussed above, a party will be generally precluded from seeking recompense from a non-contracting party in commercial transactions involving three parties.  However, a party may be able to recover damages from a non-contracting party in scenarios or transactions involving only two parties.
Notwithstanding this, the amount of recoverable damages will be limited to actual, provable losses sustained, together with reasonably foreseeable losses.  Further, a claimant must demonstrate a direct, provable nexus between the losses incurred and the amount of compensation in which he seeks.
In its 65/2003 decision, the Supreme Court stated that all recoverable losses must be ‘direct’ and ‘natural’ arising from the alleged harmful or unlawful act.  Further, Article 181 of the Civil Code states that a party’s compensation for losses arising from a harmful act “shall be assessed on the basis the amount of harm suffered by the aggrieved, together with loss of profit, provided that that is a natural result of the harmful act.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017


At the beginning of January 2016, Sultani Decree 1/2016 was issued approving the Ninth Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), i.e., the last of the Five-Year Plans included in the Government policy named Vision for Oman’s Economy (Oman 2020), which, in due course, will be followed by Vision Oman 2040.

Due to the economic and financial challenges caused by oil price volatility, the National Program for Enhancing Economic Diversification (“Tanfeedh”) was announced as one of the fundamental elements in the Ninth Five-Year Plan. Tanfeedh is an Arabic word that can be translated into English as “execution” (referring to execution of a project or of a plan). The aim of the programme is to accelerate diversification and reduce dependence on the oil and gas sector, both by developing a series of projects in five crucial business sectors and by reforming some aspects of the local legal framework in order to facilitate the establishment and operation of businesses in the private sector.

The five business sectors the Sultanate elected to focus on are manufacturing, transportation and logistics, tourism, fisheries and mining. The two parallel “community and sustainability enablers,” aimed at improving the ease of doing business, relate to finance and the labour market. The Tanfeedh initiatives will initially focus on three of the five business sectors, namely manufacturing, transportation and logistics and tourism, with fisheries and mining projects to be developed at a later stage due also to the need of suitable logistics and transport facilities, particularly in connection with large mining projects.

A comprehensive list of the main projects proposed in the three initial business sectors is available in the official Tanfeedh website at the following link: This article will not focus on the specific projects being implemented but on the proposed changes in the legal framework which should enable the implementation of these and other projects and generally encourage private-sector initiative and foreign investments. The information utilised derives from the documentation outlining the outcome of the Tanfeedh labs, discussion ‘labs’ which formed part of the Tanfeedh process and were attended by approximately two hundred decision-makers from the public and private sectors. The Tanfeedh labs represented the second of the eight steps of the process and were followed by open days, during which the general public was invited to express its opinion on the Tanfeedh proposals.

The two main issues addressed by the research relating to the finance sector were: (a) the need to increase the participation of the private sector in funding large projects; and (b) the best way to improve the business environment and attract investors. In 2016, the Sultanate ranked 70th overall in the Ease of Doing Business Index (The World Bank – Doing Business Report 2016) and such ranking must improve in order to attract foreign investors. The initiatives envisaged in this respect include new legislation on foreign investments, the integration of all Government entities in the ‘Invest Easy Platform’ and the unification of the national investment promotion efforts.

In particular, the new Foreign Capital Investment Law, which, in accordance with the Tanfeedh recommendations, should be issued during the course of 2017, should allow for 100% foreign ownership of companies in Oman, subject to the power of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to restrict certain business sectors by reasons of national interest.  This, once implemented, will represent a radical change in the Omani business environment. Other measures include the establishment of a Credit Bureau and the integration of all Government entities in one tendering platform, which will allow a full overview of all aspects of public procurement, the latter to be coupled with more incisive intervention in order to increase accountability and transparency.  In this respect, it has been proposed that all Government-owned companies will be subject to the Code of Corporate Governance (the “Code”) issued in 2016.  The Code, for the time being, applies only to publicly listed companies. Finally, Tanfeedh proposes that a number of Government-owned enterprises be privatised and listed on the stock market.

With reference to the labour market and generally to employment, Tanfeedh includes various strategies to create employment opportunities in the private sector and, in particular, the manufacturing, logistics and tourism sectors.  The Tanfeedh reports quote restrictive labour regulations and low productivity of the labour force as two key areas that require improvement.  The keyword appears to be flexibility: part-time work, temporary work and flexible movement of employees (in particular between companies belonging to the same group) are some of the proposed new initiatives.

From an educational point of view, the Government wishes to form a closer relationship between the business environment and the education providers and to improve the quality of the training programmes proposed to the Omani youth.  At the same time, measures shall be taken to attract young Omanis to seek employment in the private sector and to encourage the establishment and operation of small and medium enterprises.

The following has been proposed to assist entrepreneurs and employees alike and to encourage employers, inter alia, to invest on the local workforce:

  • The creation of a specialised and dedicated Labour Court, which should assist in reducing the duration of lengthy and expensive court proceedings.

  • One-window process for obtaining Labour clearances, i.e., the permission to employ a foreign employee in a specified position.  This bureaucratic process involves different Government authorities and can be extremely time-consuming; the proposed new process is aimed at reducing the total time required to five working days.

  • Dedicated Labour Solution Packages for specific sectors such as the construction sector.
The proposed measures arising from the Tanfeedh process do not have force of law; however, many appear to be on track for swift implementation as shown, for instance, by recent articles appearing in the media on the establishment of a dedicated Labour Court.  Certainly, entrepreneurs and investors are looking with great interest at the developments which have the potential to change to a great extent the Omani business environment.

We will provide further updates as to any changes of law or proposals that are implemented throughout the year.


Monday, January 16, 2017

A Ceiling on the Charging of Interest?

Charging interest on a commercial loan or debt is an important part of any contractual bargain.  For the creditor, the interest charged on a debt encourages quicker repayment by the debtor, and represents the price at which the creditor is willing to lend.  For the debtor, interest charged is important as it is the amount for which he will be liable, in addition to the principal debt.

Omani courts have consistently upheld the payment of interest in commercial cases.  Article 80 of Oman’s Commercial Code (issued by Royal Decree 55/1990) states:

“A creditor shall be entitled to levy interest in consideration of the debtor obtaining a commercial loan or debt.  The interest shall be determined by the agreement of the two parties within such limits as the Ministry of Commerce & Industry shall set in agreement with the Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry each year, having due regard to the term of the loan, the purposes thereof, and the risks attendant thereon. If the debtor is late in making payment on the due date, the creditor shall be entitled to claim the agreed interest in respect of the period in arrears.”

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (the “MOCI”) periodically issues a decision on the maximum interest rate chargeable for commercial loans.

Starting from 2001, the limit on the rate of interest set by the MOCI was 10%; thereafter it has been tapered, whereby in 2006 it was set at 9%, in 2008 it was set at 8% and by 2015 it was set at 6.5%.

Ministerial Decision 172/2016 is the most recent decision issued by the MOCI in respect of the maximum interest that can be charged on a commercial debt or commercial loan given by a company that is neither a bank nor a finance and asset-leasing company licensed by the Central Bank of Oman. MD 172/2016 set the maximum interest rate chargeable on commercial loan or debt at 6.5% for a period of one year starting from 20 July 2016.

Thus, as the interest rate in Oman for commercial debts is currently set at 6.5%, any final arbitral award or court decision will likewise apply this rate.

The parties entering into a contract normally agree to a rate of interest chargeable in case of default or delay in payment by one party to the other party as per the contractual terms.

What happens if the contract is silent in respect of the interest rates?

In the event that a contract is silent as to the applicable interest rate regarding a commercial debt or commercial loan, the Omani courts may still award the claim of interest based on the applicable interest rate which is set out by the MOCI’s most recent and applicable Ministerial Decision.  The Omani courts are generally of the view that a claim for interest cannot be denied on the ground that a contract is silent on the subject.

What happens if the parties agree to a higher rate of interest than the rate specified by the Ministerial Decision?

While entering into construction contracts, the parties usually adopt an edition of the Sultanate of Oman’s Standard Conditions. The Standard Documents for Building and Civil Engineering Works – Fourth Edition 1999 sets the rate of interest at 7%.  In general, the Omani courts, or the arbitral tribunal, would award interest at 7% as stipulated in the Standard Documents referred to above (although it is higher than the rate set by the MOCI), unless the parties raise a dispute about the rate of interest in the contract being higher than the rate of interest set by the MOCI.
In the event that litigation is pursued in respect of the rate of interest in a contract being higher than the rate set by the MOCI, the Omani courts would generally uphold those contractual terms each party had agreed to, including the rate of interest.  However, the Omani courts’ interpretation of the issue of the contractual interest rate being higher than the interest rate set by the MOCI is still not clear and will depend on the merits of each case.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

An Overview of the Land Transport Law

Overview of Land Transport Law in Oman

Oman has recently taken a very active approach in promoting and boosting transportation services throughout the region.  As part of this vision, the Ministry of Transportation and Communication (the “MOTC”) plans to introduce a road management system whereby it will promote efficiency and maintain clear guidelines on the operation of public transport.  The MOTC has recently issued Ministerial Decision 10/2016 (the “Land Transport Law”).  The Land Transport Law was published in the Official Gazette on 6 March 2016 and it will come into effect on 6 March 2017.

The rules governing the Land Transport Law apply to all transport activities, except those activities where it has clearly been established by particular Sultani Decree or Ministerial Decision.  The Land Transport Law obliges the party seeking to conduct transport activities to obtain an authorization from MOTC.

The main governmental body that is in charge of facilitating and ensuring that companies are in compliance with the Land Transport Law is MOTC.  As part of its objectives, the MOTC is responsible for preparing a comprehensive strategy for land transport services in Wilayat and the Governorates. The MOTC is also responsible for determining the locations of the facilities and their technical conditions and specifications.  The MOTC is also in charge of setting and implementing the transportation fees. 

Goods transport contracts

The carrier may inspect the goods to be transferred to check their condition and the accuracy of the data provided to him by the shipper.  If it turns out that the condition of the goods does not allow transferring without damaging them, the carrier may refuse to transport them unless the shipper approves in writing his knowledge about it and he approves the goods to be transported.  The carrier is responsible for the safety of the goods.  He is also responsible for loss, or damage or delay in delivering the goods. The carrier will not be liable to the extent of any error from the shipper or receiver or any hidden defects in the goods.

Commission agent

The commission agent of transport is responsible for the safety of the passengers and goods and cannot contract out of this liability.  Article 47 provides that “Any condition that requires the full or partial exemption of the commission agent of transport’s liability of whatever physical damage that occurs to the passenger shall be considered null and void.

Compensation grounds

If it is proven that the carrier is responsible for the delay in the delivery of the goods, his liability will be within the range of what is equal to half or double of the transportation fees, and shall not exceed the total value of goods transportation fees.

Any person contravening the provisions of this law shall be punished by imprisonment for a term not less than one month and not more than six months and a fine not less than OMR 100 and not more than OMR 500, or either of these punishments. The punishment is doubled for repeat offences.


Monday, January 9, 2017

A Brief Overview of the New Executive Regulations of the Tourism Law

Earlier this year the Ministry of Tourism issued the Executive Regulations of the Tourism Law by way of Ministerial Decision 39/2016 (the “New Executive Regulations”).  The New Executive Regulations supersede the Executive Regulations issued by Ministerial Decision 91/2003 (the “Old Executive Regulations”).  The New Executive Regulations came into force on 1 September 2016 (by way of an amending Ministerial Decision 50/2016).

Whilst the Tourism Law, promulgated by Royal Decree 33/2002 has not been amended, the New Executive Regulations are drafted to bring greater clarity to the booming tourism industry of the Sultanate. The New Executive Regulations also include new categories of hotels, tourist establishments, etc. which are now part of Oman’s tourism industry.

This article aims to provide a brief overview of the New Executive Regulations, their features and where required a comparison with the Old Executive Regulations.

Licensing provisions

One of the most significant changes to the licensing provisions brought about by the New Executive Regulations is the issuance of a preliminary approval.  The Ministry of Tourism will now issue a preliminary approval to the licence applicant in order to fulfill the required conditions for the tourism project and to obtain required approvals from competent authorities.  The preliminary approval will be effective for one year from the date of issuance and shall not be extended or renewed.

By introducing the concept of a preliminary approval, the Ministry has done away with the mandatory requirement to launch the establishment within six months of the date of issuance of license, as provided in the Old Executive Regulations.

Further, in order to ensure that the tourist establishments are managed and operated in a professional manner, Appendix 3 of the New Executive Regulations sets out the minimum qualifications and experience required from the managers of the hotels and tourist establishments.  The qualifications and experience requirement has been further classified into requirements from an Omani and a non-Omani manager.

Revocation of license

Whilst retaining many of the licensing, renewal and revocation provisions from the Old Executive Regulations, the New Executive Regulations have reduced the number of days within which a renewal application should be made. Further, if the business of an establishment is suspended for reasons within the control of the licensee for a period of six consecutive months, then the Ministry has the right to revoke the licence.  The Old Executive Regulations gave 24 months’ time for revocation of a licence in the event the business is suspended.

Unlike the Old Executive Regulations, the New Executive Regulations now provide a cure period of 30 working days to the licensee prior to suspension or revocation of the licence to allow the licensee to rectify the violation or breach.

The New Executive Regulations also provide a mechanism for filing grievance(s) against any decision issued in accordance with the New Executive Regulations.

Increase in fees

Appendix 1 of the New Executive Regulations sets out the types of tourist establishments and the fees and duration for each of their respective licences.  Compared to the Old Executive Regulations, the fees payable under the New Executive Regulations are almost ten times higher.  

Further, the requirements relating to provision of a Letter of Guarantee and the circumstances in which it can be liquidated have been relaxed.

Recognition of Archeological Sites and Tourist Villages

Whilst the Old Executive Regulations recognised and provided for tourism establishments such as hotels, restaurants, hotel apartments and tourist camps, the New Executive Regulations now provide rules related to identified ‘Archaeological Sites,’ specified as castles, forts and other archaeological sites subject to the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism.

The New Executive Regulations also include ‘Tourist Villages’ on a site encompassing a number of utilities and services including lodges but essentially having a unique architectural identity that is subject to a single management.

Article 25 of the New Executive Regulations provide that the tourist places and sites, governmental tourist lands and Archeological Sites shall be utilised pursuant to usufruct, lease, management or performance contacts in accordance with the unified forms prepared by the Ministry of Tourism.

As the Sultanate is also evolving into a destination for adventure sports enthusiasts and hikers, the New Executive Regulations specify that the Ministry of Tourism may specify mountain passages and paths in the Governorates and license a party to manage such passages and paths.

Musical groups

Amongst other requirements, the New Executive Regulations specify that only five- or four-star hotels, or a hotel that is managed by an international company in the field of hotel management, can apply for recruitment of musical groups.  It is also essential that the performance of the musical group correlates with the type of restaurant and the cuisine served.

All other requirements in terms of recruiting a musical group remain largely similar to the Old Executive Regulations, including the three months’ license period which can be extended for one or more terms.

Tourism guidance
The tourism guidance licence in the Old Executive Regulations was limited to only Omani individuals provided they fulfill all the requirements for grant of such tourism license.  The New Executive Regulations have broadened the scope by granting a temporary licence to any person to be trained in the ways of tourism guidance for a period of not more than one month.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Board Members in Public Joint Stock Companies: Amending their Responsibilities and Election Provisions

The MOCI has issued Ministerial Decision 201/2016 (“MD 201/2016”), which became effective on 5 September 2016 amending previous Ministerial Decision 137/2002, regarding the rules and conditions for electing the members of a board of directors in a public joint stock company, and the terms specifying their responsibilities.  The provisions introduced by MD 201/2016 are consistent with the Code of Corporate Governance (the “Governance Code”) for Public Joint Stock Companies, which was introduced by the Capital Market Authority (the “CMA”) and came into effect on 22 July 2016, in relation to the composition and responsibilities of the board of directors in Public Joint Stock Companies (i.e., public companies).

MD 201/2016 prohibits executives in a public company, and any person who works for the company and is entitled to receive financial compensation for his/her work, from being a board member in that company.  MD 201/2016 provides that the board of a public company must be comprised of at least one third independent members and have a minimum of two seats.  MD 201/2016 states that a member is not independent if:

  1. S/he holds 10% (ten percent) or more of the shares of the company, company’s parent company, or company’s affiliates or sister companies.
  2. S/he is a representative of a corporate body holding 10% (ten percent) or more of the shares of the company, company’s parent company, or company’s affiliates or sister companies.
  3. In the two years preceding candidacy, s/he used to hold an executive position or was an employee in the company, company’s parent company, or company’s affiliates or sister companies, was employed by any party contracting with the company (including independent auditors, key suppliers, and NGOs that received finance representing more than 25% of its annual budget) or used to hold about 20% of the shares of any of the abovementioned parties.
  4. S/he serves as a member on the board of the company’s parent company, affiliates, or sister companies.
  5. S/he is a first-degree relative to any of the board members in or key management personnel of the company, company’s parent company, or company’s affiliates or sister companies.
  6. S/he has a material, economic or financial relationship with the company or any of the company’s sister, affiliate or owned entities.

MD 201/2016 prohibits a person from nomination to the board of a public company if that person is an employee in any other private or public joint stock company which has similar objectives to those of the public company s/he is nominating to become a board member in.  It also prohibits board members from interfering in the company’s day-to-day activities and from being held under mandate or assignment for the company.
MD 201/2016 requires the board of directors in public companies to establish a separate ‘Nomination and Remuneration Committee’ from among its members to consider nomination applications for board membership and determine the remuneration for board members.  This committee will also assist the company to produce clear and credible policies on remuneration and board membership nominations which should enhance transparency and professionalism in public companies.  It should be noted that the formation of this committee was one of the major introductions to the Governance Code, which we have discussed in more detail in a previous article on Oman’s Code of Corporate Governance.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Guarantees and Indemnities in the Sultanate of Oman

Guarantees are a form of security commonly used to secure the performance of a physical or monetary obligation by another party. Rules concerning guarantees are prescribed in various Omani laws including Sultani Decree 04/1974 promulgating the Commercial Companies Law (the “CCL”) (as amended), Sultani Decree 55/1990 promulgating the Law of Commerce (the “CL”) (as amended), and Sultani Decree 29/2013 promulgating the Omani Civil Transactions Law (the “Code”) (as amended).

Shareholder approval

A company or government entity may guarantee the obligations of its parent, subsidiary or, as the case may be, government-owned company.  However, before a guarantee can be given by a company, it is essential that the necessary internal approvals are obtained from the shareholders.  There are certain restrictions placed on partners, managers and directors of a guarantor company. Article 8 of the CCL stipulates that these individuals cannot, without the prior consent of the members of the company, or in the case of a joint stock company its consent at a general meeting, use the company’s property for the benefit of third parties.  In other words, shareholder consent is required if a company wishes to provide a guarantee.

Additionally, to guarantee third-party debts outside the ordinary course of business, or to mortgage company assets for matters other than securing company debts, express authorisation is required by the articles of association of a joint stock company, or by resolution of the company’s members at a general meeting, in accordance with Articles 102(c) – (d) of the CCL.


Article 758 of the Code stipulates that if a debt becomes due and the beneficiary under a guarantee does not claim the same from the debtor, the guarantor is entitled to notify the beneficiary that legal proceedings are necessary against the debtor to settle the debt.  If the beneficiary fails to initiate proceedings within six months of the date of such notification, and the debtor does not make the requested payment, the guarantor is discharged from his liability towards the guarantee, save where the debtor provides adequate security in respect of the guaranteed obligation.

Accordingly, from a lender’s perspective, it is advisable to add wording to the guarantee agreement explicitly excluding and dis-applying Article 758 of the Code.

Joint and several liability

Guarantors are jointly and severally liable together with the debtor under Article 238 of the CL.  As such, the beneficiary of a guarantee can claim against the debtor, the guarantor or both at his option, and does not forfeit his right to claim against the other, until he has received full satisfaction of the debt owed and covered by the guarantee.  Notwithstanding this, it is advisable that, when drafting a guarantee, the beneficiary requests the inclusion of a clause that allows him to make a claim directly against the guarantor under the guarantee in the event of default of the debtor, without first having to exhaust all claims against the debtor.

Obligations of the beneficiary

If a beneficiary receives any property (i.e., security) from the guarantor securing the guarantee, Article 241 of the CL imposes on the beneficiary an obligation to safeguard this property and, in doing so, take account of the interests of the guarantor.  If the beneficiary does not fulfil his obligation and the guarantor suffers a loss to the property as a result, the guarantor is released from his obligation to the extent of the loss suffered.

If the debtor becomes bankrupt, the beneficiary of a monetary guarantee must make a claim for the debt in bankruptcy.  If he does not, as stipulated by Article 242 of the CL, his right of recourse against the guarantor will be barred to the extent that the guarantor suffers loss as a consequence of the creditor being at fault.

The beneficiary is further under an obligation to seek the approval of the guarantor prior to granting the debtor an additional period of time in which to fulfil his obligation.  In the event that the beneficiary does not obtain the consent of the guarantor, the guarantor may be ‘release[ed] [from] his liability for the guarantee’ under Article 246 of the CL.

Obtaining a release of guarantee

The most common way to be released from a guarantee is through performance of the guaranteed obligation, or to receive the consent of the parties to the guarantee.  If a party in the latter case does not consent, and the debtor’s obligation is deferred, the guarantor’s obligation must also be deferred in accordance with Article 235 of the CL.


The courts of the Sultanate of Oman have not drawn a clear distinction between the two concepts. Whilst the CL specifically provides for guarantees, it is silent on the issue of indemnities.  However, if an indemnity has been agreed in contract, in principle there is no reason such agreement should not be recognised by the courts of Oman.  The contract would have to make explicitly clear that the beneficiary has the right to claim directly against the guarantor for a fixed amount without having to prove his losses were caused by the default of the debtor; and without any duty to mitigate his losses.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Oman's Public Authority for Social Insurance - PASI

What is PASI?

The Social Security Law and its amendments promulgated by Sultani Decree 72/91 came into force on July 1, 1992 (the “Social Security Law”). Article 5 of the Social Security Law provides that a public authority shall be formed under the name of Public Authority for Social Insurance (“PASI”) with administrative and financial independence, and is responsible for the implementation of the Social Security Law.

The Social Security Law aims to provide security against old age, disability, death or occupational injury and disease, thereby ensuring a social stability for the insured and their dependents. The Social Security Law only applies to Omani nationals employed in the Sultanate of Oman.

What are the employer’s contribution and obligations?

Under the Social Security Law, the employer is solely responsible for the payment to PASI in respect of each relevant employee, and the payments must be made on the basis of the actual wage drawn by that employee. Currently, the employer is required to contribute a total of 11.5% to PASI (10.5% of the employee’s gross salary, plus an additional 1% for occupational injuries and disease). The employee is required to contribute an amount equal to 7% of its gross salary.

Each company in Oman has online access to the PASI scheme (which sets out the details of each Omani employee and his or her salary). As a standard practice, in January each year, PASI updates the contribution that the employee and employer are required to make based on the standard minimum 3% increment to the gross salary. However, if the employer grants an increment of more than 3%, it is the employer’s obligation to notify PASI of the new salary by updating the employee’s salary details online. Generally, PASI would require the company to amend and notify PASI of the employee’s salary within a period of one month from implementing the revised salary.

Is it compulsory for companies to comply with the rules under Social Security Law? Or can companies provide their own scheme?

Article 16 of the Social Security Law requires the employer to undertake payment of the full social security subscriptions to PASI, and the employer is solely responsible for payment of these subscriptions, and may deduct the employee’s contribution from the secured employee’s salary.

However, if a company has a workers savings fund scheme by which the Omani employees receive more than the PASI entitlement that the employer is required to contribute (i.e., the contribution made by the employer is equivalent to, or more than, the 10.5% of the gross salary to be contributed by the employer), then such scheme is acceptable and the employer is exempted from making PASI contributions on behalf of its employees. However, if it falls below what is defined under the Social Security Law, then it is important to note that the company may be foreseen as breaching the Omani Labour Law and the Social Security Law.

Article 7 of the Social Security Law provides that an employee has one year from the date of leaving to bring any claim regarding PASI. In such case, the concerned employee will have one year from when he or she leaves to raise a grievance against the company.

What happens if the employer defaults?

Article 17 of the Social Security Law provides that the employer who is subject to the law, but does not pay the contribution according to actual wages of the employees, or does not pay the insurance contribution for all or some of his employees, or does not pay the end of service benefits or refuses or delays the payments of the due contribution at the time, then the employer shall be obliged to pay to PASI an additional amount estimated at 13.5% of the contribution which the employer failed to pay, or of the amounts which are due for end of service benefits, unless there are unavoidable reasons, to be evaluated by the Board of Directors of the PASI.

In addition to the penalty imposed under Article 17, PASI also sets out an additional penalty under Article 74 of the Social Security Law, whereby if the employer violates any of the provisions of the Social Security Law, the employer shall be punished with a fine of not less than OMR 100 and not more than OMR 500, and the limits of the punishment will be double in case of repetition of the violation, and the fine multiplies according to the number of the employees with respect to whom the employer commits one or more violations.

Therefore, it is important for a company to comply with PASI rules. If the company has revised the employee’s salary, it is the responsibility of the company to notify PASI of the new salary and undertake to pay the full subscription to PASI accordingly.