Russian shipping and insurance fugitive Vitaly Arkhangelsky has rolled out the tanks in his battle with high-ranking banking and political figures over claims that he is the victim of a massive fraud conspiracy.
Arkhangelsky, who is fighting extradition from France, has issued a writ of summons in the District Court of Nicosia against what are described in a covering statement as “three shadowy Cypriot companies”.
It is alleged that the companies are owned and/or controlled by the Bank of St Petersburg and/or Aleksandre Savelyev, who was its chairman.
Arkhangelsky, who has been living in exile in Nice with his wife and family, claims a conspiracy to strip assets belonging to his Oslo Marine Group (OMG) “probably” also involved Valentina Matvienko, the governor of St Petersburg described as an ally of Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin.
Another figure pointed out by the Russian entrepreneur, whose shipping and insurance conglomerate is claimed to have been valued at $1bn in 2008, is a chief of police.
In an action to be filed at the end of the summer recess in Cyprus, Arkhangelsky is seeking conspiracy and fraud damages over the seizing of group assets.
A statement issued by his Paris-based lawyers, Francois Ameli and William Bourdon, said: “The three Cypriot defendant companies are Ultriva Ltd, Datadot Technology Ltd and Intucel Ltd, which, it is alleged, were established in Cyprus exclusively to cover the tracks of the illegal expropriation of Mr Arkhangelsky’s property.”
They add that the assets — Western Terminal, which owns and operates an eight-hectare site in the Port of St Petersburg, and Scandinavian Insurance — were seized in 2008 by the bank in a dispute over a loan.
The allegation is that they were sold to the Cyprus companies at a “knock-down price”.
Arkhangelsky claims he was the target of a campaign of “persecution” orchestrated on behalf of Matvienko and that he fled to France to avoid being arrested in a police probe it is claimed was instigated by the St Petersburg governor.
The statement of claim alleges that when Arkhangelsky expressed his reluctance to enter into an agreement “temporarily” transferring shares to special-purpose vehicles — as additional security on an approximately $120m loan by the Bank of St Petersburg — his life and that of his wife, Julia, and family were threatened.
Since fleeing to France, the Russian authorities have sought to have Arkhangelsky extradited. He has filed a criminal complaint in Nice claiming that directors of the bank and a group of unidentified persons “falsified” documents so his property could be seized.
Arkhangelsky argues that a criminal case was fabricated against him using documents and seals belonging to OMG but removed from its offices by police.
The “conspiracy” is estimated by Arkhangelsky to have caused losses and damages related to Western Terminal and Scandinavian Insurance of more than RUR 4.05bn ($145.4m).
He says he has no hope of an impartial hearing in Russia and he has invited the bank of St Petersburg, relevant officials, the offshore companies and other “co-conspirators” to agree to a trial in the London High Court, which he describes as “fully independent and internationally recognised”.
The OMG president and majority shareholder says he intends to “pursue all wrongdoers in whatever jurisdiction is open to me”.
By Geoff Garfield London
Published: 22:01 GMT, 04 Aug 11 | updated: 20:19 GMT, 03 Aug 11