Three Russian billionaires try to sue a former British spy
Bloomberg reports about a trial currently taking place in London between a trio of Russian billionaires of Alfa Group and a former British spy Christopher Steele.
In his dossier about alleged ties between Moscow and Donald Trump’s campaign Steele named billionaires Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan “creatures of the Kremlin,” who arranged for the delivery of “large amounts of illicit cash” to Vladimir Putin in the 1990s.
The three deny any ties with Trump’s campaign, and have filed a corresponding defamation claim against Steele in British court to “clear their names”, said Hugh Tomlinson, an attorney for the three.
Fridman and his partners fear that Steele’s report “make people think they have this corrupt relationship with President Putin,” they also insist that their “relationship with Russia’s leaders was no more than that of a typical business group with government,” and claim compensation for misuse of their data.
A few months ago, BBC reported that Fridman had lost the similar lawsuit in the U.S. – in April 2018, Mikhail Fridman and his business-partners filed a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Steele in D.C. Superior Court, and claimed that Mr. Steele falsely accused them of corruption over their close ties to Putin. Their case was tossed just four months later, when the judge ruled that Steele’s dossier examined Russian influence on the presidential election, and therefore served the public interest.
There are two more jurisdictions, where Mikhail Fridman is currently engaged in lawsuits. In Moscow, a dispute is ongoing on between himself and Elena Baturina, the second richest woman of Russia ($1.2 bln), former President of a large construction and development company Inteco. Fridman’s A1 holding has made it clear that they intend to use the story of 19 years back to try and get 13.8 billion rubles (around £173 mln) from Baturina by manipulations with the debts of her bankrupt brother Victor. Baturina finds these claims unsubstantiated and delusional.
In Spain, a much less pleasant lawsuit lists Mikhail Fridman as the accused party. Last Autumn, Spanish prosecutors accused him of raider attacks, market manipulation, fraudulent insolvency, business corruption and misuse of company assets concerning two Spanish businesses – Zed and Dia.
As told by AFP, Fridman is accused of having led “a series of actions that led to the insolvency of the Spanish company Zed Worldwide SA… in order to buy it at a ridiculously low price, much lower than that of the market,” the court document said. According to the National Court, the Russian magnate was a shareholder and creditor for Zed, a Spanish technology company declared bankrupt in November 2016. As a result, he had “a privileged position for any type of decision in the group,” it said.
The very same manoeuvers have been spotted by the press in the case of Dia, the embattled Spanish supermarket chain Mikhail Fridman bought in May via a hostile takeover. The Reuters write that Spain’s High Court is investigating allegations that Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman acted to depress the share price of Dia when trying to take control of the supermarket chain, a court document seen by Reuters showed.
Spain’s Supreme Court gave the High Court a mandate to investigate anonymous accusations that indicated Fridman may have acted to manipulate prices, engaged in insider trading and damaged the interests of minority shareholders.
In October, Fridman appeared in court in Madrid as part of the Zed case, and denied all charges. The Court however, ruled to maintain the ‘accused’ status in his regard.