Oleg Deripaska, formerly Russia’s wealthiest man, can be sued in the U.K. by a former business partner who is seeking at least $3 billion, a London court ruled.
A U.K. court can hear the case, a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeal said in London today. The judges upheld a lower court ruling, which said the risks of holding a trial in Russia, “such as assassination, arrest on trumped-up charges, and lack of a fair trial,” meant that England is the better forum.
Michael Cherney, a Russian-born businessman, claimed Deripaska failed to honor an agreement concerning stakes in two aluminum companies. He contends Deripaska reneged on an agreement to exchange part of Siberian Aluminium for a future interest in Russian Aluminium, according to court documents. Deripaska, 41, was formerly Russia’s richest man and saw his wealth drop 88 percent in the past year to $3.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
“The judge was entitled to hold that, although Russia is the natural forum for the trial of the action, the risks Mr. Cherney would be exposed to if the case were to be tried there are sufficient to render England the appropriate forum,” Lord Justice Martin Moore-Bick said in his part of the ruling today.
Cherney said in a statement handed out outside the courtroom that he was pleased with the judgment. “I hope that Mr. Deripaska will now focus on the real issues between us and I look forward to moving towards an early trial of them in London,” he said.
Lawyers for Deripaska argued in earlier hearings that Russia was the proper jurisdiction. His spokesman, Edward Simpkins, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
Deripaska also controls Russia’s second-largest automaker, OAO GAZ, which is partnering Magna International Inc. in its potential acquisition of General Motors Corp.’s German Opel unit. About one in every 100 Russians is economically reliant on Deripaska’s companies, which also span pulp, cement and power generation, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The lawsuit is one of at least two cases involving Russian billionaires in London’s Commercial Court. A dispute involving Boris Berezovsky’s lawsuit against Roman Abramovich over a stake in OAO Sibneft is also pending.
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