Mr Viktor Vekselberg (a prominent Russian businessman) and various companies in the Renova Group have for several years been involved in litigation in the British Virgin Islands against a former Russian government minister, Mr Mikhail Abyzov and his companies. The proceedings commenced in 2013 and concern a dispute relating to Russian energy assets. Mr Abyzov and his companies have brought claims in those proceedings seeking to recover around US$1 billion.
On 9 October 2020, Mr Abyzov and Emmerson International Corporation (“Emmerson”) filed an application seeking a global anti-suit injunction against Mr Vekselberg and two companies, Integrated Energy Systems Ltd (“IES Cyprus”) and Gothelia Management Ltd (“Gothelia”). The application sought an injunction: (i) requiring IES Cyprus and Gothelia to discontinue claims they have brought against Mr Abyzov and Emmerson in proceedings in Cyprus (the “Cyprus Proceedings”); (ii) requiring Mr Vekselberg to procure that the three other claimants in the Cyprus proceedings discontinue their claims; and (iii) restraining Mr Vekselberg, IES Cyprus and Gothelia from commencing any proceedings anywhere in the world, other than the BVI, against Mr Abyzov and Emmerson relating to issues in the BVI proceedings.
The application was the second attempt by Mr Abyzov and Emmerson to obtain a global anti-suit injunction against Mr Vekselberg, their first such application having been dismissed on 2 June 2020.
In a judgment published on 24 February 2021, Mr Justice Wallbank dismissed this latest application in its entirety. He noted that the authorities emphasise that caution is required before granting anti-suit relief where there is no applicable exclusive jurisdiction clause or arbitration agreement. The Judge also emphasised that particular caution was required in this case because the claims in the Cyprus Proceedings have not yet been fully pleaded.
Mr Justice Wallbank noted that Mr Vekselberg is not a party to the Cyprus Proceedings, and that the claims in Cyprus relate to the collapse of a proposed merger between two Russian energy businesses (T Plus and Gazprom) in 2018. The Judge stated that those claims are “completely different” from the claims in the BVI proceedings and that they have no real or substantial connection to the BVI. As such, he ruled that the BVI is not the natural forum for those claims.
Significantly, the Judge accepted that the injunction sought by Mr Abyzov and Emmerson would serve no real purpose. It was common ground that the BVI Court had no jurisdiction over three of the claimants in the Cyprus Proceedings, which were not named as respondents to the application. The Judge also held that Mr Vekselberg has no ability to require two of those companies to discontinue their claims in Cyprus. As such, the Judge recognised that the Cyprus Proceedings were likely to continue in any event, so the injunction sought would not be effective.
The judgment is here.
Simon Birt QC and Michael Bolding represented Mr Vekselberg and IES Cyprus (instructed by Agon Litigation and DLA Piper).