By John Helmer, Moscow
The New York State Supreme Court has ruled to dismiss Leonid Lebedev’s (lead image, right) five-year case against Victor Vekselberg (first left) and Len Blavatnik (second left) for a 15% share of their £13.8 billion sale of the TNK-BP oil company to Rosneft in 2013. Lebedev has been suing for an award of $2.7 billion. In London he has been trying to bank on winning the payoff.
In a 19-page ruling, issued on Tuesday at noon, Judge Saliann Scarpulla (second from right) dismissed all Lebedev’s claims for money from the 2013 Rosneft transaction. She also ordered Lebedev to pay “costs and disbursements to defendants as taxed by the Clerk upon the submission of an appropriate bill of costs.” The cost of the litigation for Vekselberg and Blavatnik, which has also extended to courts in London, Ireland, Cyprus and Switzerland, is almost $20 million; Lebedev’s costs are about the same.
Lebedev fled Russia in April 2015, abandoning his Federation Council seat. At the time he feared expulsion from the Senate for lying about his foreign citizenship and assets. He was also facing a criminal investigation of embezzlement of about $240 million from a regional electricity utility, TGK-2. This he had acquired with the patronage of Anatoly Chubais, once the head of the state’s electricity holding, UES.
Lebedev found safe haven in the US and Cyprus; the former by arrangement with the US State Department; the latter from President Nikos Anastasiades and his law firm in Limassol. They arranged a Cyprus passport for Lebedev which they kept secret from the Cyprus courts just as Lebedev kept it secret from the Russian Senate.
Lebedev started his New York court case in February 2014, choosing the Manhattan branch of the state court because Vekselberg and Blavatnik had lived and conducted business in New York, and because Lebedev claimed they had negotiated their deal in a walk through Central Park in Manhattan. Lebedev alleged Vekselberg and Blavatnik had violated the terms of their original deal in 2001, and cheated him over the ensuing years. Vekselberg and Blavatnik countered that Lebedev had been paid everything which had earlier been agreed between them; concealed his money through an Irish front company and in bank accounts in Switzerland, Cyprus, Ireland, and New York; and then lied in the US court papers.
In Scarpulla’s ruling this week, she said Vekselberg and Blavatnik “have shown that the 2001 Investment Agreement lacks contemporaneous consideration and, consistent with Korff, Lebedev has failed to raise an issue of fact on this issue.” That’s judicial language dismissing Lebedev’s lawsuit for faking terms of the agreement which had not been agreed; and failing to prove evidence of his right to benefits. By ordering Lebedev to pay his own costs, plus Vekselberg’s and Blavatnik’s costs, Scarpulla has ruled that Lebedev never had a case to argue and fabricated his evidence from the start.
Last November, during a court hearing with lawyers for the sides, Judge Scarpulla signaled that she didn’t believe there had been a binding agreement between Lebedev, Vekselberg and Blavatnik which was the foundation of Lebedev’s demand for his payoff. By then Scarpulla had already dismissed Lebedev’s charges against them of fraud and deceit. “The law is pretty straight up on this,” the judge said. “That’s why I’m trying — I’m not trying to kick you out of court but, I mean, anytime someone drafts a document — I can’t make every document ambiguous because it doesn’t suit someone’s interest years later… if I had a nickel for every time a party said one thing and a document directly contradicted it, I would be on a beach in Hawaii and I would not be here in the courthouse hearing this motion for summary judgment.”
Scarpulla has taken eight months to finalize her judgement kicking Lebedev out of court. Read the ruling.
The dismissal of Lebedev’s case and the judge’s condemnation implied in the award of costs against Lebedev have implications for the professed truth-telling and evidence in the case from Lebedev’s two Cyprus lawyers, Nikos Anastasiades – president since February 2013 – and the managing partner of Anastasiades’s family law firm, Theofanis Philippou (right). Their role in helping Lebedev move money from his Russian businesses through Cyprus and Switzerland into US bank accounts is indicated in the case evidence. Lebedev has been investigated in Russia but not prosecuted nor convicted of stealing the money. Philippou’s record can be followed here. He has refused to answer press questions since the
Anastasiades has said through a spokesman that the Lebedev case against Vekselberg and Blavatnik “has nothing to do with him personally” — note the adverbial qualifier. “The president is not implicated in this case. Conceivably, the law firm might be implicated,” the presidential spokesman has added.
A lawyer for Lebedev told Bloomberg an appeal may be lodged.