MOSCOW, November 15 - RAPSI. The UK High Court of Justice declared Vladimir Kekhman, founder and co-owner of JFC, Russia's leading fruit importer, bankrupt on October 5, 2012, Kommersant daily reported, citing information posted on the UK's Individual Insolvency Register.

This is the first time a Russian businessman has sought protection from banks in foreign courts.

The court records read that Kekhman is subject to the jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice, despite being a Russian citizen, as he has substantial assets in England.

The businessman has declined to issue a statement. The creditors of the JFC group learnt of Kekhman's insolvency from Kommersant and also have not commented on the news.

As previously reported, JFC's governing company was declared insolvent in March and a bankruptcy procedure initiated. The company's debts to Russian legal entities amount to 38.5 billion rubles ($1.3 billion).

JFC's main creditors are Sberbank, the Bank of Moscow, Promsvyazbank and Uralsib. More than 10 lawsuits on the recovery of overdue loans from JFC and its subsidiaries are pending at Russian courts.

In addition, two lawsuits are also pending against Kekhman and two top managers of the group for joint responsibility for the debt.

Established in St. Petersburg in 1994, the JFC Group comprises fruit production, procurement, storage, distribution and sales companies. It has 3,000 hectares of banana plantations in Ecuador and Costa Rica. JFC runs offices in St. Petersburg, Moscow and other Russian cities, as well as in Cyprus, Ecuador and Costa Rica. It has 3,600 personnel. JFC deals in fruit sales in Europe, the Middle East and the CIS.