By Christophe Perrin, 30 January 2019. 6.30 a.m.
On Tuesday 29 January, the Civil Court of Nice, France, rejected as void the claim filed against the 56-year-old Russian billionaire Sergei Pugachev by the Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA), a State agency of the Russian Federation. DIA notably requested the seizure of the oligarch’s property on the French Riviera.
Sergei Pugachev, former owner of the French luxury grocery brand Hediard and of the daily newspaper France Soir, currently owns the Château de Gairaut in Nice, a chalet in Valberg, a yacht, as well as real estate in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
The once almighty business tycoon, formerly known as ‘Yeltsin’s banker’, today complains that he has been put on President Putin’s black list.
Since the Mezhprombank bank, founded by Pugachev in 1990, went bankrupt in 2010, the Russian justice has been claiming from Sergei Pugachev the payment of 1.14 billion dollars. The Moscow Commercial Court hopes to have its decision executed in France.
Russian agency’s claim rejected by court
It seems that proceedings have come to a halt as the Nice Court of the first instance rejected DIA’s claim. According to Sergei Pugachev’s lawyer Anne-Jessica Fauré, ‘DIA is a governmental agency. It has no authority to represent a bank under bankruptcy proceedings!’. She is adamant that ‘the Agency is not entitled to undertake legal action against my client in France’ and describes DIA as a ‘weapon’ in President Putin’s hands.
‘An illegal decision of the Russian court’
The Parisian lawyer insists that the case is clearly a political one. ‘Mr Pugachev is sued for the bankruptcy of Mezhprombank, whereas he withdrew from the Bank’s leadership in 2003. The person accusing him of being de facto involved in the bank’s management has not only been set free by the Russian court, but has also been given a job in a different bank. Strange coincidence, isn’t it?’
In a press release published on Tuesday night, the oligarch’s press service made a strong counter-statement: ‘All legal proceedings launched by the Russian authorities against Sergei Pugachev are nothing but attempts to prevent the examination of the case filed by Mr Pugachev’s against the Russian Federation before the International Court at The Hague.’
‘Blatant procedural violations’
Pugachev’s press service also stressed that ‘the decision condemning Mr Pugachev to pay over one billion dollars was rendered by a single judge, instead of a panel of three judges, which constitutes a blatant violation of the law. The decision is, therefore, illegal in Russia and can have no legal consequences outside the territory of the Russian Federation.’
On 21 September 2015 Sergei Pugachev, who now lives in Nice, initiated legal proceedings against the Russian Federation for ‘expropriation of assets by the Russian authorities, that began in the early 2000’.
The law firm Betto Seraglini filed a claim for over 10 billion euros on behalf of the oligarch.
A legal battle has just come to an end in Nice, but the war between Pugachev and Putin is far from being over yet.