3VB Counsel Team Defeats USD 300m Fraud Claim by Russian Oil Company

A 3VB counsel team of Ewan McQuater QC, Matthew Parker and Nathaniel Bird, instructed by Enyo Law, has successfully defended Ukrainian billionaire businessman Gennadiy Bogolyubov against a USD 300 million fraud claim tried over 12 weeks in the Commercial Court. The claim, issued in 2016 by Russian oil company PJSC Tatneft, alleged that the Defendants, four high-profile Ukrainian businessmen, had participated in a scheme to divert substantial sums owed for oil delivered to one of Ukraine’s largest refineries.

In a 153 page judgment handed down on 24 February 2021, Mrs Justice Moulder dismissed the claims against each of the Defendants, finding that they were time barred under the applicable three-year limitation period in Russian law. The Court held that Tatneft and its commission agent, S-K, whose claim Tatneft sought to advance as a purported assignee, had actual knowledge of both the alleged violation of rights and of the identities of the Defendants for time to have begun to run more than three years prior to the issue of proceedings. In reaching this conclusion, Mrs Justice Moulder found that “all four witnesses called for Tatneft on limitation [had been] evasive, unreliable and in some instances likely to be not telling the truth” and drew adverse inferences from Tatneft’s “striking” failures to adduce evidence from key individuals and to preserve relevant electronic documents. The judgment offers important guidance as to the application of the limitation period for tortious claims provided by Article 200(1) of the Russian Civil Code and as to the meaning of ‘harm’ in Article 1064 RCC, the general provision on tort.

The full judgment can be read here.

Members of 3VB have acted for Mr Bogolyubov throughout the course of this litigation, including at a significant interlocutory hearing at which Mr Justice Picken set aside a world-wide freezing injunction obtained by Tatneft and in Tatneft’s subsequent appeal to the Court of Appeal.