Luca Rayes Palacín

Luca specialises in corporate and commercial transactions, fund finance and formation, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures, offering comprehensive legal expertise.


His practice extends to regulatory advice, compliance, corporate governance, and boardroom advisory. Notably, a substantial portion of his work carries an international dimension.


Prior to joining Afridi & Angell, Luca spent four years in the corporate team of an international law firm with an office in Abu Dhabi.


Some of Luca’s representative matters include:


  • Advising the subsidiary of a listed provider of energy resources on a financing and supply project in South America.


  • Providing ongoing advice on the incorporation, governance and good standing of different ADGM-domiciled investment vehicles.


  • Assisting a Turkey-based fintech provider in the implementation of a DIFC-based Joint Venture.


  • Advising an investment banking provider and listing consultant with respect to SCA-related obligations following a dispute arising from the listing of a company on ADX.

Maria Palmou

Maria is a senior associate with a diverse range of expertise, which enables her to provide counsel across various facets of the law. Her corporate and commercial proficiency encompasses the drafting, review, negotiation, and advisory aspects of a wide array of commercial contracts and proposed transactions. Maria excels in developing negotiation strategies, drafting board resolutions, and analysing proposed transactions, distribution and cooperation agreements, MOUs, and shareholders agreements.


With a background in advising and representing clients in commercial disputes, Maria is well-versed in international and domestic arbitration proceedings under the DIAC, LCIA, and ICC. Her substantial involvement in arbitration and court litigation processes and her experience in mergers and acquisitions equip her to offer clients a comprehensive skill set.


Maria is a frequent speaker at legal and industry-focused conferences, often presenting at legal training events. Her clientele in the UAE includes local government entities, private companies, investors, as well as contractors and developers. She also brings extensive experience in advising SMEs on sales and purchase agreements and transfer of shares transactions.


Prior to joining Afridi & Angell, Maria spent five years as an associate in the corporate/commercial team of a legal consultancy firm in Greece and eight years as a senior associate in the Dispute Resolution Department of a legal consultancy firm in the UAE.


Some of Maria’s notable matters include:


  • Counselled a major Dubai free zone authority in a DIAC arbitration (DIAC, UAE law) in a dispute relating to non-payment of rent following the termination of a commercial land lease in Dubai. The lease was categorised as a Musataha agreement under UAE law and was valid for a period of 50 years.


  • Advised and acted for the Claimant in a shareholders and employment dispute relating to a restaurant business in the DIFC.


  • Provided counsel for the Second Defendant in a case with freezing orders with a penal notice issued by the DIFC Courts against the First Defendant and the Second Defendant to not dispose in any way, deal with or diminish the value of any of their assets which are in the DIFC or outside the DIFC on the basis of a judgment and a worldwide freezing order granted by the Courts of England and Wales.


  • Advised and acted for the Claimant in a dispute relating to the construction of a major commercial and residential building in Al Barsha South (Dubai) and, in particular, concerning issues of entitlement to an extension of time, additional costs, variations, liquidated damages, and claims of defects.


  • Advised and represented the Claimant against the employer in Dubai Courts (proceedings filed by the employer in breach of the arbitration agreement and potential arbitration).


  • Advised and acted for the Respondent in a DIAC construction arbitration in final award set-aside application proceedings.


  • Advised and acted for the Claimant in a DIAC commercial arbitration in the recognition and enforcement of a final award application proceedings.


  • Advised and acted for the Claimant, a leading owner, developer and asset manager of hotels in the Middle East and Australia, in a dispute relating to the construction of a hotel in the UAE.


  • Advised and acted for the Defendant, a distributor and wholesaler provider in Dubai, in a dispute in the Dubai Courts concerning a breach of a loan agreement, breach of a distribution agreement and default in a share purchase agreement.

Noran Al Mekhlafi

Noran is an Associate based in Afridi & Angell’s Dubai office and practices in the dispute resolution team. With over five years of experience in dispute resolution in Dubai. Noran specialises in DIFC litigation and arbitration disputes. She has particular experience in areas of commercial, employment, and construction disputes, and holds a strong track record of working in several complex high-profile cases in the DIFC Courts.


Prior to joining Afridi & Angell, Noran spent four years as an Associate in DIFC litigation and arbitration in the Dubai offices of UAE-based law firms.

Stanley Andrew Lee Schama

Lee is a barrister from the UK who specialises in complex and high value disputes and his practice extends across a broad range of commercial law, both in advice and advocacy. His work is principally focused on:


  • international and multi-jurisdictional banking disputes


  • corporate and personal insolvency


  • money laundering and asset tracing


  • commercial and white collar crime


  • general commercial disputes involving breach of contract, breach of trust, negligence and aspects of residential and commercial property law.


Lee’s practice also encompasses several niche areas including defamation, aviation, competition, intellectual property and trademark infringement, and taxation.

Stephanie Nazareth

Stephanie joined Afridi & Angell in 2023. She advises clients in domestic and cross border transactions in connection with acquisitions, divestitures, mergers and corporate restructuring matters. She has extensive experience in drafting and negotiating various legal documents including sale and purchase agreements, joint venture agreements, shareholder agreements, escrow agreements, corporate guarantees and non-disclosure agreements.


Prior to joining Afridi & Angell, Stephanie was an associate at a leading law firm in Mumbai. She has extensive knowledge and experience in relation to general corporate, mergers and acquisitions and private equity laws and practices in India.


UAE experience:


  • Advising a construction engineering company on its joint venture with a local engineering and construction company in Abu Dhabi.


  • Advising multiple foreign companies on the establishment and incorporation of special purpose vehicles/holding companies in the Abu Dhabi Global Markets (ADGM).


  • Advising a foreign company on restructuring and transfer of  interests in group companies located in the UAE free zones.


India experience


  • Representing an investment advisory firm on its fund raising through the issuance of optionally convertible redeemable preference shares.


  • Representing a private equity fund on its minority investment in a pharmaceutical and biotechnology company.


  • Represented Reliance Retail Ventures Limited along with its wholly owned subsidiary, Reliance Retail and Fashion Lifestyle Limited, on acquisition of the entire retail & wholesale, logistics and warehousing business of the Future Group. Assisted in due diligence of Future Consumer Limited and assisted in review of disclosure letter under the transaction documents.


  • Representing Vopak India B.V. on its acquisition of 49 per cent shareholding in a pan-India joint venture entity with Aegis Logistics Limited which created one of the largest independent tank storage companies for LPG and chemicals.

Ramesh Fernando

Ramesh has considerable experience in litigation and dispute resolution, with extensive abilities in contract negotiations and large-scale disputes. Ramesh has also advised and drafted legal opinions and agreements for large multi-national corporations and other non-governmental entities and investors when retained to advise on potential legal issues, regulatory steps, and changes to applicable legislation.


Prior to joining Afridi & Angell in 2022, Ramesh practiced law in Sri Lanka as an Attorney-at-Law / Legal Counsel in the Chambers of Mr. Geoffrey Alagaratnam, President’s Counsel, during which time Ramesh was involved in several landmark pro bono public interest litigation cases before the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal. These included cases filed against public authorities for gross negligence in failing to prevent the Easter Sunday bombings of April 2019, as well as the petition challenging the President’s unconstitutional exercise of power in pardoning former Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake.


Ramesh was also the Research Assistant to the Commercial Law Reforms Sub-Committee of the Ministry of Justice Sri Lanka which was tasked with advising the Minister of Justice on commercial law reforms and drafting several pieces of legislation including a new Arbitration Act and a Mediation Act.


From 2017 till 2022, Ramesh lectured on company law at the Royal Institute of Colombo.

Vaishali Dhanawat

Vaishali’s practice focuses on general corporate private equity and mergers and acquisitions.


Vaishali has successfully advised and acted on a wide range of domestic and cross-border transactions across key industry sectors such as renewable energy, infrastructure, hospitals, information technology and e-commerce. Vaishali has also advised clients on the regulatory framework in India involving the exchange control and securities laws.


Representative transactional experience includes:


  • Advising DEG, FMO, ADB and Proparco on their investment of up to USD 100 million in a company engaged in renewable energy sector.
  • Advising Mahogany Singapore Company Pte. Limited on its primary investment in TVS Supply Chain Solutions Limited.
  • Advising Cisco in relation to its acquisition of two Indian information technology companies in India.
  • Advising on Sequoia’s investment as part of a Series C funding round of USD 110 million into a company engaged in the business of providing online search related services in the automobile sector.
  • Advising on Sequoia’s primary and secondary investment of up to USD 380 million into a company engaged in the business of providing baby products and cosmetic products.
  • Advising a Saudi-based company on 100 per cent acquisition of a company engaged in manufacturing wind turbine generators.
  • Advising an alternative investment fund on its primary investment in a company engaged in news, news aggregation and digital media marketing.
  • Advising a venture capitalist firm in the acquisition of 40 per cent stake in an artificial intelligence platform and information technology company.


Prior to joining Afridi & Angell in 2022, Vaishali was an associate at two leading law firms (AZB & Partners and Khaitan & Co) in India.

Ananya Pandit

Ananya joined Afridi & Angell in 2023. Her practice includes banking and finance, and general corporate and commercial matters. Ananya advises companies and financial institutions on a range of local and cross-border financing and commercial transactions.


Prior to joining Afridi and Angell, Ananya worked as associate at Cyril Amarchand and Mangaldas, Mumbai (a leading law firm in India) and as a senior legal manager (in-house lawyer) at ICICI Bank (Mumbai).


Some of Ananya’s notable matters include:


  • Advised a Spanish bank on a USD 150 million term loan facility, including structuring and registering various UAE security.


  • Advised a local bank on a USD 20 million ship financing facility.


  • Advised a Russian bank on a EUR 2.62 billion term loan facility, including structuring and registration of various UAE security in multiple freezones.


  • Advised a Russian bank on a EUR 5.77 billion, term loan facility including structuring and registration of various UAE security in multiple freezones.


  • Advised a leading UAE airline company on a term loan facility of USD 27.2 million.


  • Advised a syndicate of international banks on a USD 830 million financing comprising term loan, cap ex and revolving facility, including structuring and registering the UAE securities.


  • Advising a Russian bank on the structuring and registration of the UAE security package for an overseas financing.


  • Advised a European bank on an export credit support financing to a leading UAE company.


  • Advised ICICI Bank on granting financial assistance ranging between INR 6 million to INR 2 billion to large Indian and global conglomerates.


  • Advised a fortune 500 company and a leading financial institution on granting term loans and working capital loans.


  • Advised a startup company on issuance of convertible notes.

Mohannad Elshaikh

Mohannad has considerable experience in all aspects of civil and commercial litigation, with extensive abilities to conduct legal research and analysis as well as drafting court submissions. He represents clients’ interests while maintaining the quality and integrity of a professional independent legal counsel.


Prior to joining Afridi & Angell in 2022, Mohannad gained both in-house and private practice experience in the UAE which provided him with a diversified legal experience and an in depth understanding of the legal system and business culture. He has a solid common law background and experience which he gained while practicing as an associate at a law firm in Khartoum. He had rights of audience before all Sudanese courts.


Mohannad taught law at the Faculty of Law, University of Khartoum, where he used to serve as a commercial law lecturer for six years, delivering courses on commercial law, IP law and agency law.


Mohannad’s dedication and commitment to enhance the rule of law in his community gave him the opportunity to participate in the prestigious ILFA (International lawyers for Africa) program to better contribute to building legal excellence in his home country and across Africa for years to come.

Sonia Guimaraes Bessa

Sonia joined Afridi & Angell in 2017. Her practice encompasses a broad range of services, including, private client work, dispute resolution and business set up in the UAE.


Sonia has regularly advised Brazilian and South American businesses on various aspects of doing business in the UAE.


Sonia has been registered as Wills Draftsman with the DIFC Wills Service Centre since 2018. Sonia advises clients on inheritance laws and the enforceability of Wills.


Sonia also has experience and assists in a variety of contentious matters involving arbitration (DIFC-LCIA, DIAC and ad hoc) as well as court litigation before the UAE onshore courts and the DIFC courts.


Prior to joining Afridi & Angell, Sonia gained in-depth experience working as a consultant in the litigation department for a well-known UAE law firm. Before that, she worked for a number of years as Attorney-Corporate for Schlumberger Oilfield Services, in Dubai.


Representative Transactions


Foreign investment and business set up:


  • Advised a Brazilian poultry business on requirements for establishing a commercial farm in the UAE.


  • Advised a large South American gemstone company on sale of goods in the UAE.


  • Advised a South American fruit and vegetable conglomerate on export of product to the UAE.


  • Advised a South American based design-studio, interior design and furniture manufacturers on options on setting up and selling products in the UAE.


  • Undertook due diligence on a large commodity trade transaction, advised and alerted first time Brazilian exporters on an attempt to defraud them.


  • Regular participant in Latin American and APEX-BRASIL forums.


Private client/wills and estate planning:


  • Coordination and consultation with the Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi Judicial Department and Ras Al Khaimah Courts and other relevant governmental and municipal authorities to identify and assess issues relating to making wills for non-Muslims.


  • Advising a Dubai based European couple on issues of distribution of worldwide assets; drafted and registered Mirror Wills.


  • Advising an Abu Dhabi based North American couple on matters relating to guardianship laws; distribution of assets; executorship and registration of individual and Mirror Wills in the DIFC.


  • Advised client on status of Dubai Notary Will in conjunction with DIFC Will; effect of revocation clauses; and deregistration of Dubai Notary Will.


  • Advising clients from different countries (including, France, Germany, Japan, Belgium, United States, India) on the registration of DIFC Wills.


  • Consulted with and gave recommendations to the DIFC Wills Registry on public awareness of the Wills Service.


Dispute resolution:


  • Lead role in defence of first ever personal injury claim brought before the DIFC Court.


  • Assisted in preparations and attended hearings for applications for discharge of DIFC court freezing orders/injunctions.


  • Assisted in a high-value dispute under DIAC arbitration rules involving claims for prolongation and variations under contract for the construction of a hotel project.


  • Assisted lead counsel in DIFC-LCIA arbitration involving disputes arising from the termination of an international automobile dealership.


  • Assisted and directed strategy in Dubai Court litigation involving claims arising from the sale of a residential building tower in the Dubai Marina.


  • Advised and assisted foreign counsel in respect of dispute over ownership of Intellectual Property rights involving multiple jurisdictions.


  • Advised a Turkish contractor in respect of dispute with a Saudi joint venture partner involving construction of a factory in Iraq.


  • Acted as a volunteer pro bono consultant on criminal cases involving foreign national defendants prosecuted in Dubai.