Sun Daily | 10 October 2017
Yukos shareholders give up fight for Russia’s French assets
(AFP) A group of major shareholders in dismantled Russian oil giant Yukos announced Monday they were giving up their efforts to seize lucrative state assets as compensation in France following a series of legal setbacks.
France seized Russian state assets worth several hundred million euros — including the plot of land hosting a huge new Orthodox cathedral in Paris and Moscow’s stake in the Euronews TV channel — after a 2014 international court ruling.
Bank accounts and some €300 million (about RM1.5 billion) of debt owed by satellite company Arianespace to the Russian space agency were also seized in a case that exacerbated diplomatic ties already damaged by the Ukraine conflict.
Yukos was once Russia’s biggest oil company but was broken up after its former owner, Kremlin critic and ex-tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003.
The international Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2014 awarded a record US$50 billion (RM253.17 billion) in damages to former Yukos shareholders, ruling that the Kremlin forced the company’s collapse in a bid to crush Khordokovsky.
Moscow refused to pay out, prompting the claimants to seek the seizure of Russian assets abroad in several countries including Britain, France and the United States.
A French judge found that the ruling applied in France, effectively authorising GML to take over assets there as a form of compensation.
But a furious Moscow launched a legal campaign to have the seizures ruled invalid, and has since managed to win back control of most of the assets.
GML, the Gibraltar-based company which brings together the main shareholders, said it was finally giving up the fight on Tuesday.
Of assets worth some €800 million that GML intended to claim as compensation, only 30 million were "still in our hands," spokesman Jonathan Hill told AFP.
"It is no longer economically efficient to pursue the execution of the arbitration rulings in France," he added.
The complex, multi-country legal saga surrounding the downfall of Yukos is far from over.
In a major victory for Moscow in April last year, a Dutch district court ruled that the Hague-based PCA did not have the legal authority to award the compensation in the first place.
A Dutch appeals court is due to rule next year on whether that second ruling is valid