Aeroflot employee asks to be excluded from high-profile fraud case
MOSCOW, February 28 - RAPSI, Vladimir Yaduta. Aeroflot manager Alexei Alexandrov submitted to the California Federal District court a request to remove him from the list of co-defendants in the U.S. Riviera Travel & Tours' lawsuit against the airline.
The tourist firm has filed a $3.5 million lawsuit against Russia's Aeroflot, claiming that the airlines employees were extorting bribes from the company.
The lawsuit was submitted to the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California. Two airline employees Andrei Novokshonov and Alexei Alexandrov are named as the co-defendants. The plaintiff accuses the defendants of violating U.S. law and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and demands that the case be considered by jury.
According to the lawsuit, the applicant entered into a contract with Aeroflot, pursuant to which Riviera Travel & Tours was granted the exclusive right to the wholesale sales of its tickets to the United States. The Aeroflot administration chose the applicant as a partner because it was the only travel agency that did not try to bribe the airline's employees, the court materials state.
At the same time, the plaintiff maintains, as soon as the contract was concluded, Aeroflot's representatives in the United States started regularly extorting bribes from Riviera Travel & Tours. The situation worsened as the U.S. company's income grew.
Particularly, the court materials read, Anatoly Deloveri, then Aeroflot's general director in the United States, demanded that the plaintiff pay a percentage of the profits from ticket sales in 2007, threatening to terminate the contract.
The travel agency refused to pay, its representatives say, and as a result it was forced to assign the rights to the wholesale sales of Aeroflot's tickets to the Downtown Travel agency, retaining only the right to sell them abroad. At the same time, Aeroflot's representatives in the United States concealed the fact from the company's management in Moscow.
Additionally, the company's clients, who bought Aeroflot tickets, were not allowed to board the planes, as they were told that their tickets were invalid. Eventually, the clients had to pay for their flights in cash and then demand compensation from the travel agency. The firm maintains that the incidents took place after Novokshonov was appointed the airline's general director in the United States, and after Alexandrov was appointed the company's representative in Los Angeles.
Alexandrov's defense noted that the airline has filed a counterclaim and that all of the claims against Alexandrov were withdrawn under a similar action.
At the same time, the airline filed a lawsuit against Rivier Travel & Tours and its head Karen Tumanyan last October. Aeroflot insists that the U.S. company, which was its registered agent, committed fraud. As a result, Aeroflot suffered losses of no less than $315,000.
The U.S. company refused to recognize Aeroflot's claims and sent a corresponding statement of defense to the court. The case will be heard without a jury on October 16, 2012.
Riviera Travel & Tours said the counterclaim is the airlines attempt to draw a veil over its own fraudulent actions.