Debevoise Represents Tatneft in English Court of Appeal Victory

19 October 2017

Lord Goldsmith KC, co-managing partner in London at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, has represented PJSC Tatneft (“Tatneft”), a leading oil company which counts the Russian Republic of Tatarstan as its largest shareholder, in its successful appeal in the English Court of Appeal from a summary judgment decision of the English High Court (see PJSC Tatneft v Bogolyubov & others [2016] EWHC 2816 (Comm)).

Tatneft brought the original claim, arguing that the four Ukrainian defendants profited from an alleged dishonest ‘oil payment siphoning’ scheme, which allowed them to misappropriate hundreds of millions of dollars from Tatneft. The sums were owed to Tatneft in respect of oil it delivered during 2007 to a refinery in Ukraine, owned by PJSC Transnational Financial and Industrial Company Ukrtatnafta (“UTN”). The sale of the oil to UTN took place via a variety of intermediary companies, some of which became directly or indirectly controlled by the defendants.

The first instance hearing took place over five days, and involved some 70 hearing bundles, extensive skeleton arguments as well as submissions by some of the leading commercial silks in London. The defendants’ case was in essence that Tatneft’s claim had no merit and ought not to proceed further because there was ‘no real prospect of success’. Mr Justice Picken agreed with the defendants, and granted summary judgment against Tatneft on this basis.

It was at this stage that Debevoise was brought onto the case, with Lord Goldsmith KC acting as lead counsel for Tatneft.

In oral argument before the Court of Appeal, Lord Goldsmith argued convincingly that there was ‘a real prospect of success’ of establishing the defendants were liable to pay Tatneft compensation for their role in the dishonest oil payment siphoning scheme. Lord Goldsmith KC  further established that Tatneft was entitled to the bring the claims and effectively rebutted any argument that the claims were time-barred.

The court found unanimously in favour of Tatneft on each issue raised in the appeal, and in so doing established an important legal principle not previously decided by the English Courts.

Lord Peter Goldsmith KC was the lead advocate making Tatneft’s arguments to the Court of Appeal, supported by Debevoise associates Conway Blake, Constantin Klein and Evgeny Y. Samoylov. The counsel team further consisted of Richard Millett QC, Paul McGrath QC and David Davies all of Essex Court Chambers, who were instructed by Akin Gump.

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