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English Court has jurisdiction in Russian joint venture clash

28/03/19

The High Court (Mrs Justice Carr) has given judgment in a jurisdiction challenge in the “bitter and high-profile battle between two Russian businessmen”, the fishing magnates, Alexander Tugushev and Vitaly Orlov.

Mr Tugushev’s case is that he co-founded the Norebo Group of fishing companies with Mr Orlov and a Mr Roth and is the owner of a one-third interest in the Group under his agreements with the pair. He contends that he has been the victim of a complex and sophisticated conspiracy by Mr Orlov and Mr Roth to misappropriate and/or deny the existence of his interest in the Norebo Group and the victim of the misappropriation of his direct shareholding in a Russian company called CJSC Almor Atlantika.

Mr Tugushev obtained a worldwide freezing order against Mr Orlov in the sum of $350m in July 2018. Mr Tugushev contended that Mr Orlov was domiciled in England giving the Court jurisdiction over the claims against him.  That was strenuously challenged by Mr Orlov, who mounted “a full-scale evidential response to Mr Tugushev’s suggestion that he is to be treated as domiciled or resident in England”, with his costs running to £4m, and sought to establish that he resided only in Murmansk, Russia. He disputed Mr Tugushev’s alternative bases for jurisdiction in the event that Mr Tugushev was wrong on domicile, being the tort gateway and the necessary or proper party gateway and in any event disputed that England was clearly or distinctly the appropriate forum.

Mrs Justice Carr considered the “depressingly vast amount of material” generated by the applications and, applied the test as to whether Mr Tugushev had a good arguable case on jurisdiction, as understood following the Supreme Court’s judgments in Brownlie v Four Seasons Holdings Inc [2017] UKSC 80, and Goldman Sachs International v Novo Banco SA [2018] UKSC 34 and as very recently explained by the Court of Appeal in Kaefer Aislamientos SA de CV v AMS Drilling Mexico SA de CV and others [2019] EWCA Civ 10.

Having done so, the judge found that Mr Tugushev had a good arguable case on every relevant point. She found that there was a good arguable case that Mr Orlov was resident and domiciled in England, after considering the extent of his connections with this jurisdiction and the nature and quality of his visits and rejecting attempts to explain away the issue of his partner having indefinite leave to remain in England.

That was sufficient for jurisdiction purposes, but the Judge then went on to find that had she been wrong, Mr Tugushev nonetheless had a good arguable case that his claims passed through the tort gateway or the necessary and proper party gateway and that England was the appropriate forum.

The judgment is here.

Helen Davies QC, Richard Slade QC and Richard Blakeley act for Mr Tugushev, instructed by Peters & Peters.

Neil Calver QC and Laura Newton obtained the original world wide freezing injunction from Mr Justice Bryan.