Posts Tagged Russia

Elena Tsareva et al v Dimitri Ananyev et al. Cypriot passports, forum shopping and anchor defendants in England.

Parties’ names alone in Elena Tsareva et al v Dimitri Ananyev et al [2019] EWHC 2414 (Comm) clearly indicate the attraction of England in international forum shopping. As Baker J notes at 5:

‘I infer that the choice of this jurisdiction as a venue for the claimants’ claims has been led by the lawyers (Russian and English) who have engaged themselves in assisting the claimants as disappointed investors. Indeed, I think it unlikely it would have occurred to the claimants, unless so led, to try to sue here. The most natural targets for any claim are PSB and (possibly) the first defendant, so the most natural venues for any litigation (all things being equal) are Russia and (perhaps) Cyprus. But none of that means that this court does not have jurisdiction.’

One, as always, wonders where these cases might go should following Brexit (if any) the English courts will regain full authority to apply forum non conveniens.

The Ananyevs are Russian nationals who were domiciled and resident in Russia in 2017. One of them, when the Claims were commenced in 2018, was domiciled and resident in Cyprus, where he has had a dual citizenship since June 2017. They are, or at all events they were in 2017, well-known in Russia as successful and very wealthy businessmen. They were the ultimate beneficial owners together of a number of businesses and assets, including Promsvyaz Bank – PSB, of whom claimants were clients. The core allegation underlying the claimants’ claims is that they were induced to invest in Notes by mis-selling on the part of PSB employees to the effect that the Notes were personally guaranteed by the Ananyevs and/or that they were safe investments. It is alleged that PSB was in a parlous financial condition rendering it highly likely the Notes would default, as in due course they did; and that the misselling was directed by the Ananyevs in a conspiracy to enrich themselves and/or their businesses at the expense of the claimants.

Some of the corporate defendants are English companies, although ‘tax-resident’ in Ireland in 2017, in Cyprus from some time later (and still now). The English companies cannot and do not challenge jurisdiction (but the claims against them are struck out nevertheless given the absence of foundation to the claims). Promsvyaz is a Dutch company, the Issuer is a Cayman Islands company, and Peters International is a Dutch Antilles company. Other defendants are Cypriot companies.

There are a great many claimants with varying suggested gateways for jurisdiction, and one best read the judgment to get the full picture. In short, however, the gateways relevant to the Brussels regime (this blogpost does not focus on the English rules) are Article 4, 7(2), and 8(1). At 29, Baker J emphasises that for the anchor claim under Article 8(1), unlike in the English CPR rules, there cannot be a merits claim. But there can be abuse, per CJEU Reisch Montage, and CDC, as recently also applied in Privatbank v Kolomoisky. Unlike in the latter case, Article 34 is not engaged here. Baker J concludes after considerate yet concise analysis that there is no good arguable case against the English defendants, the claim against them is hopeless, and therefore the anchor mechanism is abused. As always in these cases, walking the rope between merits analysis and ‘good arguable case’ is not straightforward yet the judgment shows again how the English courts deploy creativity to ensure the anchor mechanism of Article 8(1) is not abused.

At 51, the tort gateway of Article 7(2) against the non-English EU defendants is dismissed with reference to Lober. Claimants suffered loss by parting with their funds deposited with PSB in Russia (or, perhaps, by contracting with PSB in Russia to do so); there is no indication of links to England, as required by Lober (applying Universal Music).

The above only narrates the essence of the Brussels Ia analysis. There is quite a bit more in the judgment of relevance to the CPR rules.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2.

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Recognition and enforcement continued: The view from the Crimea.

With state succession comes a need for judicial re-organisation, as well as a series of practical considerations for the recognition and enforcement of judgments et al issued by authorities of the various States involved in the territorial dispute. The Crimea is a case in point. Anna Tkachova and Andriy Pozhidayev give a great overview first of the reorganisation of the courts, subsequently of the coinciding complication in recognition and enforcement of courts and tribunals in the respective parts of the country. A very good insight into both parts of the exercise: the formal, law-making part as well as the practical considerations for litigating parties.

Of note is that recognition and enforcement of decisions etc. by Ukrainian courts etc. in the Crimea, and of Russian courts etc. in the Crimea, are not covered by European conflict of laws (as indeed is the case for any third country judgments). Neither as far as I am aware are they covered by any of the export controls /sanctions issued by the EU either. (In contrast e.g. with import of goods from the disputed territories, covered by Regulation 692/2014 and corrigenda viz certificates of origin (linked to the EU-Ukraine association agreement, currently being ratified by the various Member States)).

Geert.

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SPS meets Geopolitics: the Lithuanian WTO complaint against Russia’s restrictions on dairy

Lithuania is suspecting that a combination of its currently holding the rotating presidency of the European Union, and Russian jittery over an impending trade and association agreements with the Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia (Armenia has pulled out under Russian pressure), explains the actions taken by Russia against Lithuanian Diary imports.

Russia notified the measure to the WTO on 11 October. Not much detail is given in the notification as to the health hazard identified, other than ‘due to detection of incompliance to microbiology, sanitary chemical and organoleptic requirements.’ – a fault which it had recently found in Russian dairy products, too and which of course Lithuania are denying.

How and where the Lithuanian complaint is currently developing is a little bit fuzzy: the EC has reportedly spoken at the WTO against the Russian action, on behalf of Lithuania (and of course to the dislike of Russia) , however I understand informal talks are underway, too.

Geert.

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Lithuanian Supreme Court refuses recognition based on Ordre Public – Right of the Child to be heard

The Lithuanian Supreme Court held on 30  April 2013 that a Russian Federation judgment granting child custody, could not be recognised in Lithuania for reasons of Ordre Public. The 7-year-old  child had not been heard (including on his opinion with whom of the parents he’ld prefer to live) either directly or indirectly  in the underlying proceedings. Hearing the child, the Court held, was however prerequisite under international human (children’s) rights Conventions.

Recourse to Ordre Public is not common, as readers will be aware. The judgment therefore is quite significant (and correct in my view), particularly as the European Commission is currently trying to map its use across the Member States (within the EU or vis-a-vis relations with third States, such as here).

Thank you to Sigita Fomičiova for the tip-off and copy of the judgment.

Geert.

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EU WTO action against Russian vehicle recycling fee

The first ever (ok, the second: however the polyethelyne case was settled before a report) WTO case concerned the environment (US Gasoline). The first ever EU action against Russia as a Member of the WTO also concerns the environment: the EU early July kick-started dispute settlement proceedings against Russia, protesting against the fee which Russia plans to introduce on the import of cars. The EU’s complaint has in the meantime been joined by Japan, with the US reported to be following suit.

The allegations are that the fee is discriminatory, not just vis-a-vis Russian production, but also among imports (Kazakhstan and Belarus are exempt); and that the alleged environmental aims are in reality disguised protectionism.

The complaint supplements the ever-growing list of trade and environment /public health cases at the WTO. These are exciting times for those of us keeping a keen eye on that area! (and trying to find time to write journal articles or even updated PhDs on same).

Geert.

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