2019 Edition
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The Oath


Chris is currently based in Dubai and is General Counsel at the holding company of a Middle East quasi-sovereign wealth fund conglomerate. Before moving in-house, Chris was a senior associate at a top-tier Australian and then English ‘magic circle’ firm (respectively, McCullough Robertson and Allen & Overy). Whilst in private practice in the early and mid 2000s, Chris acted predominantly for banks and large financial institutions including, among others, Westpac, St George, NAB, BNZA, ANZ, HSBC, RBS as well as a range of institutional investors, financial services companies, PE houses and REITs. He has advised clients on a wide variety of borrowing/lending, corporate, commercial, capital market, real estate and restructuring transactions. After transitioning in-house in 2009, Chris has overseen some of the Middle East’s most high-profile and complex commercial and investment transactions. His deal list is extensive with expertise covering banking, insurance, property, funds and distressed asset deals using a variety of conventional, Islamic and derivative funding structures and vehicles. Following the global financial crisis in 2009/10 he was involved in a geo-strategic and systemic-risk USD12Billion corporate and debt restructuring which was widely acknowledged by experts to have been one of the Middle East region’s most complex restructurings. In recent years, as the nature of corporate governance and the role of in-house counsel more generally have evolved, Chris has focused on providing a critical link between the CEO and board level, and the conglomerate’s myriad subsidiary, affiliate and global operating entities and their respective business needs. Chris has also advised on all manner of corporate governance, fiduciary and directors’ duties and compliance issues to countless boards and directors across multiple jurisdictions. He has served as a non-executive director, or ‘invited adviser’, on some SME and start-up boards and as a trustee for family trust structures. Chris has a Bachelor of Arts (International Relations major) and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Queensland. He has a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice and a Master of Laws from the Queensland University of Technology (banking, securities and insolvency law), and an Executive Master of Business Administration from the Hult International Business School in Boston. Most recently, Chris was awarded the Certificate in Corporate Governance from the Faculty of INSEAD at Fontainebleau, France (INSEAD IDP-C (20); October 2017). Chris is admitted by, and maintains a current practicing certificate with, both the Supreme Court of Queensland and the Senior Courts of England and Wales. He was a shortlist finalist for the England and Wales Law Society’s ‘Solicitor of the Year’ award in 2014 and his team won the Corporate Counsel Middle East ‘Small Legal Team of the Year’ award in 2014 and the In-house Community Counsels of the Year ‘Small Legal Team of the Year’ and ‘Change Management Team of the Year’ in 2017. Chris is Australian and may become fanatical about rugby and cricket. He enjoys skiing and occasionally attempts golf.
Felix is the General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer of The Marcura Group, a Dubai-based group of companies focused on providing online platforms, financial services, data, compliance and specialized IT-enabled services to the global maritime industry. Aside from overseeing the legal and GRC matters concerning the group, he is also involved in overall strategy and corporate planning as a member of its board of directors. He has worked and consulted with various companies in Asia, Europe and North America. He is a member of the UK Institute of Directors, the State Bar of California and the American Bar Association. He holds a Bachelor's Degree from Ateneo de Manila University, a Juris Doctorate from John F. Kennedy University School of Law and a Certificate in Finance, with Distinction, from UC Berkeley Extension. He is also an alumnus of the University of Cambridge Judge Business School’s Advanced Leadership Programme.
Julie Beeton is General Counsel and Assistant Professor at the Canadian University Dubai. She is a Canadian and UK qualified lawyer based in the UAE since 2008. Julie was a Senior Associate with Allen & Overy in London and Dubai before moving to Marriott International to negotiate their new hotel deals in the Middle East and Africa. She now provides legal advice to the Canadian University Dubai and teaches International Business Law.
Justin Dowding acts as General Counsel for noon.com. noon is a joint venture between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Mohamed Alabbar (Chairman of Emaar). Justin manages a team of five lawyers and is responsible for the legal and governance functions of noon across the GCC, Egypt, Morocco, India, China, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka. Prior to joining noon, Justin was Head of Legal for Transguard Group in Dubai, he has also worked for Expedia, Royal Bank of Scotland and Allen & Overy in London.
Born and raised in Paris - France, Linda graduated with a Master’s degree in Business Law from University Paris II Pantheon-Assas and Postgraduate Degree in Corporate & Tax Law from University Paris IX Dauphine. She worked as lawyer within international law firms in Paris and Luxembourg City and as in-house legal counsel for headquarters multinational in Luxembourg. When she relocated to Dubai, she joined the Legal Department of Nestlé Middle East FZE end of 2014. Linda Mouaz is the Head of Legal and Compliance of Nestlé for the Middle East market (13 countries). She ensures effective management of legal risks for the Middle East region. She advices on all areas of business law with a focus on commercial, corporate, antitrust and contracts matters. She also handle the compliance function.
Maria is the General Counsel of the ENTERTAINER, the leading rewards and loyalty solutions provider in the region with physical presence in 20 destinations spread over 15 countries across the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe. With over 15 years’ experience gained in private practice and in-house roles, Maria has provided her expertise in notable transactions, iconic projects and law reform initiatives. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Sydney and a Diploma in Legal Practice from The College of Law, Sydney. Maria is admitted as a solicitor and barrister in the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the High Court of Australia. Prior to first moving to Dubai and moving in- house to join Nakheel in 2008, she worked in private practice at top-tier law firm Blake Dawson (now known as Ashurst). Since then, she has held a number of General Counsel positions in a wide spectrum of companies and industries in Australia and the Middle East. As General Counsel of the ENTERTAINER since 2016 and having established its legal department, she now leads a team of dedicated lawyers who are responsible for all legal, governance and compliance matters globally.
Marthinus Vermeulen has 10 years oil and gas experience of which 7 years in Dubai. He established the legal and compliance functions at OiLSERV (a leading independent oil and gas services company with operations in 7 countries) and has been the Head of the Legal Department since 2012. He has led the legal and compliance functions through expansive regional growth. Vermeulen joined OiLSERV after a career with Weatherford during which he held several senior legal positions, including that of General Counsel, Sub Sahara Africa. Prior to Weatherford, Vermeulen worked in the telecommunications industry as Legal Counsel for Huawei. During his time at Huawei, he was awarded the Huawei Presidential Award for his legal work. Vermeulen started his legal career as a practicing attorney at a law firm, where he focused on Commercial Litigation and Contract Law. Holding a bachelor’s degree in Law and a master’s degree in Import and Export Law, from North West University, South Africa as well as an MBA degree in Oil and Gas, from Middlesex University, London, he qualified as an Attorney and, subsequently, Advocate of the High Court of South Africa. He is also a Certified In-house Counsel (ACC) and a Certified Compliance Officer (GAFM).
Matt Barton has been Group General Counsel of Petrofac since January 2018. Petrofac is a London-listed oil and gas services provider with revenue of over USD5.8 billion in 2018 and over 11,000 employees with operations worldwide, including in the Middle East, the UK North Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. He has over 20 years’ experience in legal and business leadership roles and has been based in the Middle East for the past 10 years. He has a particular expertise in leading and developing strategic governance, compliance and risk structures in the engineering, construction, manufacturing and industrial sectors.
Michelle Johnson is Senior Vice President Legal Affairs with flydubai and is responsible for advising members of the senior management team and overseeing all legal matters for the airline. flydubai celebrated its 10th Anniversary this year and is the second largest airline operating from Dubai International with a network of more than 90 destinations in 48 countries. As a senior executive with over 20 years of experience in international aviation, capital markets, regulatory, financing and corporate law, Michelle has a proven track record in developing and implementing complex transactions and processes. Michelle was appointed as General Counsel and Company Secretary for Air Berlin PLC and served on the group companies’ boards of directors. For several years, Michelle worked at international law firms in Washington, D.C., USA and Frankfurt, Germany. Michelle was awarded her juris doctor, cum laude, from the American University in Washington, D.C.
Natalie Divers is an accomplished lawyer with over 13 years of experience in private practice and inhouse roles. She is currently the Senior Director of Legal and Human Resources at Transguard, the UAE’s most trusted outsourced provider with a full-time workforce of over 65,000. Natalie oversees a legal and compliance team of 10 employees and a HR team comprised of 125 employees. Prior to moving to the UAE almost 10 years ago, Natalie started her career as a Criminal Defence Lawyer in Glasgow, United Kingdom and was made Branch Principal during her traineeship. Prior to joining Transguard, Natalie established legal departments in various UAE companies across sectors including construction and security technology. Natalie studied Law (LLB) at the University of Strathclyde and obtained a post-graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Glasgow Graduate School of Law.
Reem Tariq Abdullah is the head of the commercial legal department at DP World. Previously she held the position of Senior Vice President Legal of Economic Zones World, a subsidiary of DP World and the holding company of Jafza (Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority), and has been with the group since 2007. She is a graduate of law from the University of London and has completed her Solicitors Qualification Exam (LPC) from London. She has more than 20 years of experience in the legal profession in both private practice and in-house. She was appointed as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2005, and has played an active role in the formation of the Arab Women’s Legal Network and she has organized “Women in Law” workshop to recognise the achievements of women in the field. Throughout the course of her career, Reem Abdullah has participated in a number of global seminars in the legal profession, and actively participates in projects aimed at the welfare and development of women and children.She is married, a mother of one child, and enjoys hiking and outdoor activities in her spare time.
Reema is an experienced media lawyer with over 25 years of practice in London and the UAE. Her vast experience includes media litigation, pre and post-publication content advice for broadcast, print and digital publishers and commercial, corporate and regulatory expertise. Currently, Reema is the General Counsel for Sky News Arabia, the 24 hour Pan Arab news channel. She advises across all areas of Sky News Arabia's broadcasting and digital media business. She advises on general commercial and regulatory matters across Sky News Arabia’s global bureau operations and is appointed by the Board to be responsible for the corporate governance function. Previous to Sky News Arabia, Reema was the Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs and Companies Registrar for the Abu Dhabi media free zone – twofour54. Reema was instrumental in developing the media regulatory policy and legislation for the free zone. Reema also managed the Abu Dhabi Film Commission and was part of the team that introduced the first production rebate in the Middle East. The incentive offers a generous 30% cash-back rebate on productions and attracted leading Hollywood and Bollywood productions to film in Abu Dhabi. Reema took the opportunity to combine her love of film with her professional experience and was involved in a variety of the productions including blockbusters: Mission Impossible, Star Wars - The Force Awakens, Fast and Furious 7 and Tiger Zinda Hai. In the UK Reema worked for Channel 4 Television for 10 years advising on legal and compliance matters across all genres involving some of the most critically acclaimed and groundbreaking shows including talents such as Ali G, Chris Evans and Graham Norton. Earlier in her career, Reema was a litigator involved in high profile defamation cases. Reema graduated from San Diego University with a Bachelors in Political Science and Film and undertook her postgraduate studies at City University London. She qualified as a lawyer in England and Wales in 1995.
Born and educated in the UK, Reza is a legally qualified Compliance and Risk professional with over 24 years global banking/ financial services experience, ranging across Corporate, Investment and Private Banking as well as Insurance, Asset Management, Private Equity and Brokerage. Reza has worked predominately in the UK and the Middle East setting up and leading Compliance, AML and Risk functions as well as managing Legal and Audit departments. Approved by regulators in the UK, UAE and Qatar, Reza has significant experience of managing regulatory relationships at senior levels across multiple jurisdictions. Previously heading up Compliance and Risk for Barclays in Africa and the Middle East and for GE Capital in the UK and Europe, Reza is currently the Co-Head of Legal, Compliance & Public Affairs (Middle East and Africa), based in Dubai, for Marsh, a division of Marsh & McLennan Companies, the premier US global professional services firm providing advice and solutions in risk, strategy and human capital. As a member of the regional Executive team and chair of the MENA Risk Committee, Reza leads the Legal and Compliance functions for the business, including regional oversight for Risk and Audit, across the MENA region. Reza is also a Board Director for Marsh in Saudi Arabia as well as Sedgwick Forbes Middle East, which owns the Marsh businesses in the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Egypt. Reza holds a UK honours degree in Law and Economics as well as professional accreditations in compliance, leadership and project management from the UK, US and South Africa.
Rima joined Mumtalakat in June 2013 and currently holds the position of Chief Operating Officer and Corporate Secretary. She is responsible for overseeing Mumtalakat’s Legal, Risk & Compliance, Information Technology and Administration divisions. As the Corporate Secretary, she also ensures the swift implementation and execution of Board of Directors’ directives. A legal advisor with comprehensive private practice and in-house experience gained over 17 years, in her capacity as Mumtalakat’s General Counsel until 2017, she managed the legal division’s activities, facilitating corporate and investment legal support while implementing the governance requirements of the organisation. She was instrumental in materialising over 15 local, regional and global investment transactions across various sectors. Most notably, Rima played a central role in the reorganisation of the McLaren Group. With her legal guidance, McLaren successfully consolidated its racing, automotive and technology businesses to promote further synergy between the three companies. Prior to moving to Bahrain, Rima held various roles in Australia including litigation solicitor of a specialist legal centre in New South Wales, where she convened and facilitated law reform submissions and presented them to the state, ministries and parliament. Rima sits on the Board of McLaren Group. She holds an LLB from Western Sydney University. She is an Australian qualified solicitor and a solicitor of the High Court of Australia.
Sarah has over 16 years of legal corporate and commercial experience in both private practice and in-house roles. She initially practiced with London law firm SJ Berwin (King & Wood Mallesons), where she played key roles on a variety of M&A transactions, primarily for private equity clients. Prior to joining healthcare private equity investment specialist TVM Capital Healthcare Partners, Sarah held various in-house roles, including for Compass Group plc, an industry leading multinational organization and a FTSE 100 company, where her last role entailed leading the legal function across the Middle East, Turkey, Central Asia and Africa. Sarah is admitted as a Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales and also holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom.
Simmy Rease is a senior lawyer with broad range of in-house experience. In her current role with BIC, Simmy has the leading responsibility for Middle East region’s legal and compliance function. She has also led BIC’s APAC legal function in the past. Simmy has an extensive experience and avid interests in TMT sector. Prior to joining BIC, Simmy was General Counsel for Souq.com, which was acquired by Amazon. There Simmy has played a leading role on significant IPR protection program together with Dubai Economic Department to protect the interests of brand owners as well as consumers on the platform. Before joining Souq.com, Simmy was part of the award-winning legal team of du as Director Legal Counsel and was responsible for handling many complex digital initiatives. She uses her experience to support and inspire digital start-ups and is passionate about promoting soft skills which she believes are vital to all in-house roles.
Susana Colmenar is a multidisciplinary lawyer with Corporate/M&A law background and extensive law firm and in-house experience (PQE+16). Currently she acts as the Head of Legal for the Dubai Mercantile Exchange, the commodities futures exchange specialized in crude oil futures contracts owned by Dubai Holding, CME Group and the Oman Investment Fund. Her In-house experience includes working for financial institutions (JP Morgan Infrastructure Fund), energy and construction conglomerates and, currently for the only commodities Exchange in the Middle East, where she advises on a variety of corporate, commercial, finance and regulatory matters. Her private practice includes working for White and Case’s New York office and the biggest law firm in Spain (Garrigues) where she has gained experience in Europe, US and Middle East.
Tsim is the Group General Counsel for Macsteel International Holdings BV, a major international steel trading and shipping company. The steel and raw materials trading division, Macsteel International Trading Holdings BV, operates through four regional hubs located strategically in New York, Hong Kong, Australia and Dubai. The shipping division, MUR Group BV, has operations in over 13 countries, and controls up to 150 owned and chartered vessels operating on 25 routes.
Vandy (Vandana Rupani) is the General Counsel of Namshi, the GCC region's premier fashion E-commerce destination, an Emaar group company. Vandy’s legal career spans over 15 years, previously in private practice at renowned international and regional law firms, counseling multinationals extensively on general corporate and commercial matters. Vandy was formerly a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright, Dubai. She was also the only female lawyer representing the Middle East offices on the firm’s Diversity Advisory Committee for several years. Vandy created and continues to build the in-house legal function at Namshi. Her role comprises varied legal, compliance and corporate governance responsibilities for the GCC, cross-functional support across various business departments, and strategic advice to management in a dynamic industry environment. Vandy holds a master’s degree in law from Columbia University, New York, and is admitted as an attorney in the US and as a solicitor in England & Wales. She has co-authored many publications, including UAE anti-bribery considerations for the Oath, and Doing Business in the UAE for the annual membership directory of the American Business Council of Dubai and the Northern Emirates. Besides life at law, Vandy passionately pursues her interests as a musician.
Vera Guedes is Group Head of Legal for Sacoor Brothers, where, for the past five years, she has set up and been managing the group's Legal Department worldwide and is also an advisor to the Group Board. Key responsibilities include compliance and corporate governance, tax and corporate structuring and restructuring, negotiation and reviewing of all sort of agreements and policies. Prior to her present role, Vera was VP & Counsel of emerging markets for GE Capital Aviation Services and prior to that was a Senior Associate at Clyde & Co. both in London and Dubai. Vera has accumulated 17 years of post-qualified experience, has Post-Graduate qualifications in Corporate Law & Air Law and holds a Master of Laws in International Air & Space from the University of Leiden.
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