(Adds details on annulment request, paragraph 9)
By Alexandra Ulmer
CARACAS, March 18 (Reuters) - Venezuela asked a World Bank tribunal on Wednesday to toss out an order that it pay Swiss airport operator Flughafen Zurich AG and a Chilean partner around $36 million for the government takeover of airport facilities they operated in the country a decade ago.
“A request for annulment was presented today,” lawyer Diego Brian Gosis of Guglielmino & Asociados, an Argentine law firm working on behalf of the Venezuelan government, told Reuters.
He said the request was filed with the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement on Investment Disputes, which ordered the payment to Flughafen Zurich and Chilean partner Gestion e Ingenieria IDC SA in November.
The total of now roughly $36 million, which includes interest payments and legal fees, was to compensate the two companies for the seizure of their airport facilities on the Caribbean island of Margarita in 2005.
The takeover came after regional authorities voided the contract the companies had been awarded to expand and operate the international airport on the popular resort island.
Venezuela faces dozens of arbitrations over nationalizations conducted during the 14-year rule of late socialist President Hugo Chavez.
The South American OPEC country, vying to meet its debt obligations after a tumble in oil prices, has in the past filed for annulments or revisions of arbitration awards in what some analysts deem a bid to win time.
Venezuela’s request for annulment in the Flughafen Zurich case came at the 11th hour. The deadline for filing the request was Wednesday, Flughafen Zurich had said in its annual report.
The annulment request argues the tribunal exceeded its authority, did not adequately back up its decision and broke certain procedural norms. It will likely take between 18 and 30 months to process, Gosis added. (Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Tom Brown and David Gregorio)