Russian billionaire Potanin’s ex moves for speedy New York asset discovery
MOSCOW, February 26 (RAPSI, Ingrid Burke) – Following on the heels of Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin’s initiation Wednesday of asset-division proceedings in Moscow, Natalia Potanina has urged a federal court in New York to waste no time in allowing her pursuit of information on the couple’s marital assets, according to court documents.
With a reported net worth of $14.3 billion, Potanin is listed by Forbes as the 58th wealthiest person on the planet, and the seventh in Russia. His Forbes profile describes the billionaire as a self-made man who earned the bulk of his wealth in the metals industry.
Potanin filed for divorce in November with Moscow’s Presnensky District Magistrate Court.
In connection with the divorce proceedings underway in Moscow, Potanina filed an application with a US federal district court in New York on February 4 seeking authorization to issue and serve subpoenas that would compel certain individuals to appear in court and/or produce evidence relevant to a determination of the couple’s martial assets.
The court granted her request the same day it was filed. In the order, the Judge Eric Vitaliano noted that if any respondent wished to object to the order or the subpoenas issued as a result, he or she must file the appropriate motions within 14 days of being subpoenaed.
A memo attached to Potanina’s application states that the couple married in 1983, and lived with her parents for the first seven years of their marriage, after which point Potanin founded Interros Company.
“Mr. Potanin is now one of the ten richest men in Russia, and his net worth is estimated to exceed fourteen billion dollars… The entire fortune accumulated by the Potanins, including Interros, and all of its assets and holdings, is marital property under Russian law,” the memo asserts.
Respondents include Prabhkirat (Yuki) Narula and Eric Chan – individuals thought by the Potanina team to have knowledge, documents, or information on the assets of Interros and Potanin. Both men work for Altpoint Capital Partners LLC, with Narula serving as its managing director and cofounder, and Chan serving as Chief Financial Officer (CFO). They were subpoenaed on February 5.
Lawyers for Narula and Chan requested an extension of the deadline to respond, noting that though the respondents plan to challenge the order and the subpoenas issued thereunder, they need more time to do so.
Arguing in the letter that an extension would not prove harmful to Potanina, the respondents’ lawyers reasoned: “Our current understanding of Russian matrimonial law is that the division of assets proceeding is separate and distinct from the divorce proceeding itself and that the parties have up to three years following a judgment of divorce in which to initiate division of assets proceedings.”
On February 18, Judge Vitaliano granted an extension, stipulating that the respondents must move to vacate the order and quash or stay the subpoenas by February 28.
On February 25, the Moscow court granted Potanin’s divorce claim, thus formalizing the couple’s split. The same day, it was revealed that Potanin had initiated asset-division proceedings in Moscow.
Potanina’s New York legal team promptly wrote a letter to the court asserting that the new developments before the Moscow court called into question the opposing counsel’s earlier reliance on the separateness and distinctiveness between asset-division proceedings and divorce proceedings under Russian law.
“We are informed that Mr. Potanin initiated an asset separation proceeding in Moscow today, and that a hearing in that proceeding has been scheduled to take place on March 13, 2014. Our preliminary information regarding these asset separation proceedings indicates that Mrs. Potanina may face substantial prejudice if she is unable to locate information concerning Mr. Potanin’s assets at an early stage of these proceedings.
In light of these developments, the letter urged Judge Vitaliano to “keep this… proceeding moving quickly,” and to deny any requests to further extend the February 28 deadline.