The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has instructed counsel to file a claim in a Swiss court to recover US$17.5mn owed by Runicom SA.
After a series of lawsuits and appeals, a Moscow court ruled in December 2002 that Swiss-based Runicom must pay US$17.5mn to the EBRD. In order to recover that money, the EBRD is filing a claim against ex-directors of Runicom, which is now in bankruptcy: Roman Abramovich, Eugene Shvidler and also Sibneft, the group for which Runicom handled oil trading.
The debt owing by Runicom was assigned to the EBRD by a third party following default by SBS-Agro, a Russian bank to which the EBRD had loaned money as part of its lending programme for small businesses in Russia. SBS-Agro collapsed after the Russian financial crisis in 1998. The EBRD has pursued the recovery of the money owed since 1999.
The EBRD is the largest financial investor in Russia, having invested more than €
6bn over the past decade, including €
1.2bn in 2004 alone. The bank is particularly active in supporting Russian entrepreneurs, and has extended about 200,000 loans through its Russian Small Business Fund (RSBF).
The legal proceedings are part of the EBRD’s commitment to upholding rightful claims through the judicial process.