Russian Oligarchs Fight It Out in U.S. Court

     MANHATTAN (CN) — Two Russian oligarchs’ fight over $83 million has brought the men to a U.S. court, where one claims he had nothing to do with the $83 million in loans, despite the other’s demands and threats.
     Sergey Leontiev filed a federal complaint last week in Manhattan against Alexander Varshavsky.
     Leontiev is the former president of Russian bank OAO Probusinessbank, which operated for 20 years before it fell victim’s to Russia’s financial collapse last year. The Russian Central Bank revoked the bank’s license due to its inability to meet capital requirements, and Probusinessbank filed for bankruptcy.
     Leontiev says he left Russia due to concerns for his personal safety, “given the Russian government’s history of persecution of businessmen following state seizure of assets.”
     After he left, five former managers of Probusinessbank were and charged with embezzlement.
     Varshavsky is a Russian-born businessman, a naturalized U.S. citizen who lives in New Jersey. He is not the Alexander Varshavsky who is a celebrated biochemist.
     “Since August 2015, in New York and elsewhere, Mr. Varshavsky has engaged in a campaign of threats, demands, and harassment in an effort to obtain payment from Mr. Leontiev for a debt which Mr. Varshavsky claims Mr. Leontiev owes him,” the May 13 complaint states. “Mr. Varshavsky is currently demanding that Mr. Leontiev pay him $83 million dollars.”
     It continues: “Mr. Leontiev owes Mr. Varshavsky nothing. In support of his alleged right to payment from Mr. Leontiev, Mr. Varshavsky has produced several loan agreements, promissory notes, and bank guarantees. None of these documents provides any basis to hold Mr. Leontiev personally liable for any debt those documents purport to represent.”
     Leontiev says his name does not appear on any of the loan documents, nor does Varshavsky’s. He says the documents involve loans to companies controlled by Probusinessbank, but do not establish Leontiev’s personal liability for the debts.
     However, Leontiev says, Varshavsky has threatened to bring criminal charges against him, and to “link Mr. Leontiev’s name to terrorism financing. Upon information and belief, Mr. Varshavsky is capable of carrying out these threats due to his well-established connections with government officials and other individuals in Russia.”
     Leontiev seeks declaratory judgment that he owes Varshavsky nothing, and damages for emotional distress from “Mr. Varshavsky’s campaign of threatened criminal actions.”
     He is represented by Robert L. Weigel with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

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