A new phase begins in the legal battle between Russia and the former Russian oil company Yukos
At the beginning of May, Yukos shareholders seized the rights in the Benelux countries for a series of alcohol brands registered in the Netherlands,which are owned by the Russian state. The claim includes iconic vodka brands Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya, reported the Ducth news agency NRC.
On February 18, the Hague Court of Appeal reinstated the decision of the lower court, the Hague Arbitration Court, to pay more than $50 billion to Yukos shareholders in compensation for illegal expropriation of the company in the early 2000s.
Taking into account the interest accrued since the first verdict on July 28, 2014, Russia, according to the ruling of the Hague Court of Appeal, must pay the company's shareholders approximately $57 billion.
Despite the fact that on May 15 Russia appealed the decision in the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, the Dutch authorities imposed an arrest on two world-famous Russian vodka brands - "Stolichnaya" and "Moskovskaya" (Moskovskaya), owned by the state-owned Russian company Soyuzplodoimport.
According to expert estimates, their global value exceeds 2 billion dollars.
Jonathan Hill, a spokesman for GML Holding, which represents former Yukos majority shareholders, confirmed this information to the Russian news outlet RBC, adding that these brands can be sold at a public auction, which will be held in September. Proceeds from the auction will be transferred to former Yukos shareholders in the case of the execution of the decision of the Hague Court of Appeal.
Hill's statement looks somewhat optimistic in light of the fact that the consideration of Russia’s appeal may be delayed for six months or more because of the complexity of the dispute, so, most likely, Russian vodka brands will not be on the list of lots of September public auction. This will only be possible if the Dutch Supreme Court rejects the Russian appeal.
Oil company Yukos was expropriated by Russian authorities in 2003 under the pretext of tax arrears. The shares went through a shadowy auction to state oil company Rosneft, then owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky ended up in jail.