DLA Piper has recruited leading project and Islamic finance specialist, Oliver Agha, as a partner in its Dubai office. Agha, who has worked on some of the most complex Islamic finance projects in Saudi Arabia, joined DLA Piper on February 5.
Agha, a US qualified lawyer, was formerly head of projects at Clifford Chance’s Saudi Arabian law firm affiliate, Al-Jadaan. Whilst there he established the projects team, taking it from two to 10 lawyers, and advised on ground-breaking Islamic finance structures and major project finance deals.
His experience includes having advised lead lender, JBIC, on the landmark US$9.5bn Rabigh project financing of a Saudi Arabian petrochemical refinery and being a lead lawyer involved in restructuring the first conventional loan transaction into an ijara Islamic finance transaction in the kingdom.
He has advised lenders on other major petrochemical project financings in the region, most recently on the structuring, documenting and negotiation of the Al-Waha project, the first greenfield project to be financed on an exclusively Islamic basis without any commercial bank debt.
His broad experience also includes sukuk al ijaras and sukuk al mudarabas Islamic financing structures.
Agha advised on the first ever sukuk approved by the Capital Market Authority in Saudi Arabia for an aggregate issue of SR3bn (US$800Mn). He is a leading authority in the synthesis of various regulatory Saudi laws and has extensive experience advising multilateral lenders in Saudi Arabia, other parts of the Middle East and in Asia.
Earlier in his career, Agha worked for law firms in New York, Washington DC, and Hong Kong.  He is a member of the New York and Connecticut bars and was a registered foreign lawyer in Hong Kong.
His arrival is significant given the substantial demand for experienced Islamic and project finance advisors in the Middle East and he will lead the development of DLA Piper’s global profile in the area of Islamic finance.
Agha’s appointment follows a number of other recent hires to DLA Piper’s Dubai office.  Senior projects and public procurement partner Brian Clark relocated to Dubai from London in January 2007. Privatisation and infrastructure specialist, Bruce Mullins joined last month to spearhead a new office in Oman, pending a recent licence application.
“Oliver’s arrival marks an important step in the continued expansion of our finance practice in the Gulf. He has first-class skills in an area where there is huge demand in the Gulf, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar,” says David Church, regional managing partner at DLA Piper Middle East. “Oliver has been involved in some of the most complex Islamic finance -deals in the Middle East and we intend to build a dedicated team around him in order to widen our offering to clients.”
Nigel Knowles, joint CEO at DLA Piper adds: “We are fully committed to developing a broad range of services across the Middle East, as we have done across Europe, Asia and the US and I am delighted Oliver has decided to join us in order to help achieve this.”
DLA Piper currently has an office in Dubai with 25 lawyers and recently applied for a licence to operate in Oman. It also operates in Saudi Arabia with its affiliate, the Law Office of Abdulaziz Al Fahad and has an exclusive relationship with Cairo-based DLA Matouk Bassiouny.