Deripaska trial delayed after lawyers query UK sanctions restriction

Attempts to jail or fine Oleg Deripaska for alleged contempt of court have been delayed after London’s High Court heard that lawyers representing the Russian oligarch had raised the possibility of his legal fees. exceed the £500,000 limit imposed by the UK sanctions regime.

Deripaska, the founder of metals group EN+, has been the subject of US government sanctions since 2018 for allegedly having close ties to the Kremlin, although in 2019 he described it those allegations were “dirty lies”.

The British government imposed sanctions on Deripaska in March after Russia invaded Ukraine, calling him a “pro-Kremlin oligarch”.

The Supreme Court is scheduled for Monday to hear a pledge petition against Deripaska by Vladimir Chernukhin, husband of a Conservative donor and former deputy finance minister under President Vladimir Putin. are living in the UK.

Chernukhin alleges that Deripaska violated legal commitments after high-profile lawsuit legal dispute between the two over the ownership of land in Moscow. He filed a petition asking Deripaska to face contempt of court proceedings, which, if successful, could land the tycoon jailed or fined.

But the Supreme Court on Monday announced that Deripaska was not present or legally represented at the hearing – even though he had lined up for law firm Peters & Peters to represent him in the case.

A spokesman for Deripaska said that the court decided to continue the case “only if Mr Deripaska is allowed to defend himself without restriction”.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) issued a license, authorizing the payment of his legal expenses.

Since February, the government has placed 1,200 individuals and organizations under sanctions as part of the Russia Sanctions regime, but OFSI is empowered to issue licenses to be able to pay its legal fees. individuals are punished.

Richard Lissack KC, representing Chernukhin, read the court letter from Peters & Peters which said the £500,000 limit set by OFSI may not be enough for Deripaska’s upcoming three-day trial.

The letters also question whether a separate license is required from the US-based Office of Foreign Assets Control (Ofa), as payments may require a bank with a connection. with the United States.

Lissack told the court the £500,000 limit was a “beautiful war chest” to pay for any legal fees and the amount was “enough to help Mr Deripaska have a fair trial and defend himself”. “.

Mr Justice Knowles said he would postpone the trial, which was scheduled to begin this week, until next March. Peters & Peters and Deripaska did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Separately, the Solicitors Authority, which oversees solicitors working in England and Wales, on Monday speak It is feared that Russian oligarchs and other wealthy litigants have used so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation to silence critics.

Ministers have promised to introduce legislation to crack down on wealthy individuals or companies find how to use Slapallowing disputing parties to evade scrutiny and financially drain adversaries raising issues of common importance.

The proceedings must be properly carried out, and that means ensuring that representing your client’s interests does not overwhelm the obligations and obligations associated with the interests of the client, the SRA said. greater publicity to the courts.

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