The High Court in London has invited the Speaker and Chairman of the Russian Federation Council (Russian Upper House) Valentina Matvienko to “provide testimony,” the well-known Russian journalist Grigory Pasko announced on his blog. This testimony should take place in the legal case filed by Russian businessman Vitaly Arkhangelsky against the “Sankt Petersburg” bank and its President Alexander Saveliev. Arkhangelsky, who is the first Russian entrepreneur to receive political asylum in France, is accusing the bank of a raider takeover of his company “Oslo Marine.”
The decision of the British Court is a precedent, particularly striking on the backdrop of the warlike and aggressive actions of Russia in Ukraine and the direct role of the Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko, Pasco notes.
Lawyers for the “Sankt Petersburg” bank have argued that summoning Matvienko and other Russian officials could harm international relations. Judge Hildyard, however, has disagreed that “the awkwardness over a foreign government” may be grounds for denial, and has also noted that if the bank does not secure Matvienko’s appearance without plausible explanations, this may adversely affect her positions.
“I think there is nothing special in the fact that someone is a civil servant,” judge Hildyard has added.
Pasco has made numerous attempts to get a comment about the case from the press service of the Federation Council, but instead of receiving answers to his questions, he has received on Wednesday a police summons for questioning, he said on his Facebook profile. The journalist has spent time in Russian prison on two previous occasions because in the 90s he exposed the Russian army in pouring radioactive waste directly into the Sea of Japan. He was recognized as political prisoner by “Amnesty International”.
The spokeswoman of the Russian Senate is a particularly loyal individual in the Russian President’s clan (newspaper Kommersant: http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/606365). According to EUobserver, she will probably be blacklisted by the EU as one of the persons to be sanctioned over the crisis in Crimea.
Russian Prosecutor’s Office in Service of “Matvienko’s Bank”
Matvienko has attracted the attention of English justice because of her son Sergei Matvienko, who was Vice President and large shareholder in the “Sankt Petersburg” bank at the time when it appropriated Arkhangelsky’s business.
(1k) Mrs. Matvienko’s term in office was known for corruption and controversial patronage of business that was owned or controlled, or otherwise connected with her friends and relatives… (1m). The rapid success of the bank in 2000s remarkably coincided with the governorship of Ms Matvienko (in Sankt Petersburg – editor’s note)” and the bank’s partnership with Sergei Matvienko as described above (in his capacity as vice president and shareholder – editor’s note), the English Court wrote in the judgment.
After the bank raided Arkhangelsky’s business, he was threatened and forced to flee with his family in Bulgaria and from there to France. Using its power-related resources, the bank filed a complaint that instantly transformed into a criminal case and Arkhangelsky was listed as a wanted person by the Russian authorities through Interpol. He was even arrested in France, but the French court subsequently decided that he was the victim of “politically motivated charges of the corrupt justice system in Russia” and refused to extradite him. In its conclusion, the court in Aix -en-Provence rejected Putin’s prosecution’s aspirations on the following grounds: “serious doubts about the fairness of the proceedings … and about the effective realization of the right of legal defense.” Arkhangelsky then received political asylum and filed a countersuit against the bank in England and in France, as the expert report found that documents submitted by the bank as guarantee had his forged signature.
Bulgarian connection – Putin’s enforceability under contracts between People’s Republic of Bulgaria and the USSR
The “Sankt Petersburg” bank is suing Arkhangelsky to take over his assets in England, France, but also in Bulgaria, where the businessman has significant property. As Bivol already wrote, this case is emblematic of the difference between Bulgarian and European justice under identical legal arguments.
This is the so-called exequatur – the decision by a court authorizing the enforcement in a country of a judgment, arbitral award, authentic instruments or court settlement given abroad, pursuant to a bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty. Specifically, the bank presented in French and in Bulgarian court, a Russian court ruling to seize Arkhangelsky’s property.
In France, the court carefully considered the facts of the case and ruled that an exequatur cannot be launched until the complaint of forged signatures on the security contract, filed by Arkhangelsky, is examined.
Unlike the French, the Bulgarian court paid no attention to the expert report, confirming Arkhangelsky’s forged signature. The judge from Sofia City Court, Bozhana Zhelyazkova (known for insisting that a comatose witness – Manol Velev – appears in person in the courtroom) was not impressed by the fact that on the same day, when the forged signatures were recorded, Arkhangelsky was in Bulgaria, which is evidenced by stamps in his international passport from a border checkpoint. Currently, the case is at the stage of cassation appeal against the decision of the Sofia City Court. The decision of the British court, which is expected in June this year, will have an influence on the outcome of the case in Bulgaria.
“To maintain its integrity, the Western legal system should stop cooperating with Russian authorities and take a “zero tolerance” stand to any request from them. Otherwise, the Kremlin will continue to abuse the instruments of international cooperation, through Interpol, such as agreements on extradition and through civil cases will continue to hunt its political opponents or just rob people,” prominent Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky told Bivol in October 2012, when we approached him for comment on the “Arkhangelsky” case.
Bukovski’s forecast sounds relevant on the backdrop of today’s events in Ukraine:
“The West needs to understand a simple fact of life: there is no rule of law in today’s Russia, and what Russia calls legal system is just the opposite: corruption, arbitrariness and oppression that corrode Russia as cancer, and as cancer, they tend to spread.”
Bivol researched exactly what contract the European Republic of Bulgaria has signed with the Russian Federation. It turned out that there is no such contract. Until today, the exequatur and other instruments of international cooperation are applied on the basis of a mutual legal assistance treaty between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of Bulgaria from 1975.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian