Fiona Trust litigation

25 January, 2011

Barristers from Essex Court Chambers conducted the defence of claims of bribery and corruption, dishonest assistance and conspiracy brought by two Russian state-owned companies, Sovcomflot and Novoship, against their clients in the massive Fiona Trust litigation. Steven Berry QC, Nathan Pillow QC and David Davies acted for the Russian businessman Yuri Nikitin, Graham Dunning QC led Susannah Jones (20 Essex Street) for Dmitry Skarga (the former chief executive of Sovcomflot) and Simon Bryan QC and Jern-Fei Ng appeared for Tagir Izmaylov (the former chief executive of Novoship).

The trial in the Commercial Court dealt with claims of over US$850 million principal plus interest, lasted for 76 hearing days, and was described in The Times as “the shipping trial of the century” and by TradeWinds as the “trial of the decade”. In addition to over 30 factual witnesses, some of whom were cross-examined over many days, the Court heard the evidence of numerous experts ranging over the areas of ship finance, charter rates, broking practice, newbuilding prices and Russian law. In a 421-page judgment that was handed down, Mr Justice Andrew Smith dismissed virtually all of the claims against Mr Nikitin and his companies, whilst the cases against both Mr Skarga and Mr Izmaylov were dismissed completely: see Fiona Trust & Holding Corporation v Privalov [2010] EWHC 3199 (Comm).

The case involved analysis of over 100 transactions spread over a long period of time and allegations of political persecution in Russia, of illegal evidence gathering including the misuse of private investigators, of coercion of witnesses and of concoction of evidence. Many of the witnesses against Messrs Nikitin, Skarga and Izmaylov were found to been untruthful.  The legal issues also covered a wide field, including conflict of laws and questions of English law relating to bribery and conspiracy, as well as related issues under the law of the Russian Federation.