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Dutch court overturns $50 billion Yukos award against Russia

Former Russian oil company Yukos owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky

In a victory for Moscow, a Dutch court on Wednesday annulled an international tribunal’s award of $50 billion in compensation to shareholders of defunct Russian oil giant Yukos, saying the tribunal had no jurisdiction.
Former Yukos shareholders said they would appeal what they said was a surprising decision and continue their efforts to seize Russian state assets around the world after what they say was a government campaign to destroy their company.
But Russia’s legal team said the Dutch ruling would pave the way for the long-running saga to be brought to a definitive end.
“They were Russians with tax problems, and the question didn’t belong in front of an international court,” White & Case lawyer Carolyn Lamm, acting for Russia, said in a media call.
Once controlled by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, then one of Russia’s richest men, Yukos was bankrupted after he fell out with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and the government began demanding payment of huge sums in back taxes.
State oil company Rosneft took over most of its assets.
Khodorkovsky was imprisoned on fraud and tax evasion charges just as he had appeared set to emerge as a political rival to Putin. He was released suddenly in December 2013 and now lives in exile.
In July 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague awarded the four former shareholders $50 billion compensation for the loss of the company, entitling them to sue around the world to seize Russian state assets.
But the Dutch court found that, since Russia never ratified the treaty under which the plaintiffs had sued, the PCA did not have jurisdiction.
Plaintiffs argued the impact of the Dutch court’s decision would be merely advisory, but Russia’s legal team said it would be binding in most countries.
“The arbitral award has been set aside in the country where it was made, which means that enforcement has to be stopped worldwide,” said Albert Jan van den Berg, Russia’s lawyer before the Dutch court.
The company representing the former shareholders said it would appeal.
“We … have full faith that the rule of law and justice will ultimately prevail,” said Tim Osborne, director of GML, the company representing the four shareholders. Khodorkovsky himself is not involved in the case.
GML’s lawyers said an earlier French ruling in their favour would not be affected by the Dutch decision.

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