THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AFP) — Shareholders of dismantled oil giant Yukos locked in a legal battle with Russia announced Monday that a Dutch court had granted them the local rights to two iconic vodka brands.
The shareholders obtained a court order in early May to seize 18 registered brands in the Netherlands belonging to the Russian Federation, a spokesman for Yukos majority shareholder group GML said Monday.
The latest move was part of their battle for $50 billion in compensation, Jonathan Hill told AFP.
“We essentially went and obtained a court order based on a Dutch appeals court ruling in February, which allows us to go ahead and enforce the arbitration award, in this case the seizure of trade marks,” he added.
“The two best-known big brand names of these are Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya vodka,” said Hill, saying the order was also effective in Belgium and Luxembourg.
The rights to the two vodka brands belong to the Moscow-based, state-owned Soyuzplodoimport company, which according to Russian media reports has said it will fight the seizures in court.
This latest twist in the long-running legal feud follows a Dutch appeal court ruling in February that reinstated a massive $50 billion award to former Yukos shareholders.
The Hague-based Permanent Court of Justice awarded the amount to shareholders in 2014, years after the once-powerful Yukos filed for bankruptcy in the mid-2000s.
In its ruling, the PCA said Moscow had forced Yukos into bankruptcy through excessive tax claims, before selling off its assets to state-owned companies — often in opaque deals.
The PCA ordered Moscow to pay more than $50 billion to the former shareholders — a record award for the arbitration tribunal.
Russia however fought the decision in a lower Dutch court, which in a shock decision in 2016 ruled the PCA “was not competent” to judge the case.
That decision was overturned by a Dutch appeals court in February, leading to the latest seizure of Russian Federation assets on May 7, GML’s Hill said.
If the Russian Federation has not paid the compensation award by September 24, in accordance with Dutch enforcement rules, “then we are able to put these trademarks to a public auction” he added.
Meanwhile, Russia said Friday it would fight the appeals court ruling in the Dutch Supreme Court.
Yukos, once Russia’s biggest post-Soviet oil company, was broken up after its former owner, Kremlin critic and ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was arrested in 2003.
He was suddenly pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013 and flown out of the country.
© Agence France-Presse