MOSCOW, December 5 - RAPSI. London's High Court of Justice Tuesday held in favor of former Russian State Customs Commission (SCC) chairman Anatoly Kruglov’s entities in a dispute over the proceeds of the sale of a lavish Cote d'Azure villa that formerly belonged to Russian oligarch Shalva Chigirinsky, according to a copy of the judgment obtained by RAPSI.

The claims were launched by Slocom Trading Inc. and Derbent Management Ltd. Slocom, a Cypriot corporation, was beneficially owned by Kruglov's former finance manager Urs Haener, a Swiss national, and his wife until December 2008 when Haener transferred his shareholding interest to Kruglov. Derbent, a Cypriot company that was launched in 2005 and operated by Haener until March 2010, at which point Kruglov reasserted control of the company.

According to the court materials, Kruglov and Haener first met in Moscow sometime around 1999. At that point Haener was heading HSBC’s Moscow division, a position he would leave in 2001 to launch his own consulting business.

Haener helped Kruglov set up a number of foundations in Liechtenstein on behalf of himself and the Kruegler family for purposes of discreet investment. Bank accounts were set up for the foundations, into each of which approximately $8 million was initially deposited. The Kruglovs granted Haener substantial control over the finances of each company.

The foundations began using a company called Willow Tree as an intermediary between them and third parties, thus providing for the discreet investment of the Kruglov money.

Haener began investing funds from the foundation as loans to third parties in April 2000. That very month, Haener provided loans amounting to $1.25 million from each company to a Cypriot company controlled by Igor Kasaev, then Chigirinsky’s business partner.

Haener and Chigirinsky began working together, and shortly thereafter – in mid-2001 – Chigirinsky became interested in purchasing the villa shortly thereafter. Chigirinsky decided to establish Tatik Inc. in order to purchase the villa, which was finally bought for about $13.8 million. Because Chigirinsky’s wealth was not liquid at the moment, he asked Haener to come up with the purchase money, at which point Haener decided to secure the loan from the Kruglov money.

$13 million was then transferred from the Kruglov family foundations to Willow Tree, and then to one of Chigirinsky’s personal accounts under the name of Tatik. The amount was later increased on three occasions, by a total of about $10.5 million, and then on another occasion for $12.5 million, bringing the total up to $36 million. In October 2004, Chigirinsky concluded another loan agreement from Willow Tree, first for $42 million, but ultimately amounting to about $49.75 million.

In a separate deal concluded in May 2003, Sibir – for which Chigirinsky once served as director and in which he held a significant amount of shares at the time – borrowed $5 million of the Kruglov money through Willow Tree.

In late 2005, increased disclosure requirements left Haener and Kruglov concerned about the confidentiality of their Willow Tree transactions. Thus they decided at that point to explore new options, which led to the creation of Derbent, a Cypriot corporation so named to honor the Dagestani city where Kruglov served in the military. 

In the fall of 2008, Chiginsky’s wealth fell victim to a significant decline in the value of his Sibir shareholding. This came as a major blow to a man who had once enjoyed the status of being one of Russia’s richest men, and who had made the Forbes list in 2008, with an estimated worth of about $2.5 billion.

In early April 2009, it was reported that Sibir had initiated legal proceedings in London's High Court against Chigirinsky and Henry Cameron, a former member of the board of directors, in connection with the embezzlement of upwards of $400 million. The court in turn ordered a freeze of  £250 million worth of Chigirinsky's assets and  £120 million worth of Gradison Consultants Inc.'s assets worldwide. Sibir Energy was suspended from trading on the AIM market in London in February 2009.

In January 2010, Sibir and Chigirinsky settled. Their settlement agreement contained various provisions, including Chigirinsky’s agreement to sell the villa to Maritime Villa Holdings for €70 million. Maritime is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sibir that, according to the judgment, was incorporated for the villa’s acquisition and ownership. The sale was completed in May 2010.

In January 2010 Slocom challenged the decision, hoping to settle the remaining debt and suspend the sale of the Chigirinsky villa. Ultimately Sibir, Tatik, and Maritime were all sued by Kruglov's companies in an effort to recover from Tatik the approximately €37.5 million still owed.

The London High Court held Tuesday that "there shall be a declaration that the Villa is held by Maritime subject to an equitable mortgage in favour of Slocom."