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Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

The boom in Russian litigation in London is a credit to the English legal system

The boom in Russian litigation in London is a credit to the English legal system


Adil Mohamedbhai considers the reasons behind the increase in Russian-related litigation in London

The last decade has seen a boom in litigation in the Commercial Court in London involving Russian oligarchs. These disputes are usually high-value, factually very complicated, and involve large teams of City lawyers. They also tend to have very little, if anything, to do with the UK. Why then have these disputes been keeping the court rooms in the Rolls Building busy?

There is no single reason
why London has been such a magnet for the resolution of Russian-related disputes. Instead, London's status as the forum of choice has come about for a combination of reasons.

There is perhaps a mundane reason as to why the English courts have been seized of disputes involving oligarchs: many of them have made London their home. This often gives the English court the jurisdictional anchor it needs to hear a dispute.

But the biggest selling point
for London as a centre of international dispute resolution
is the quality and integrity of its judiciary. For litigants who may not always trust the judges
in their home country, the comfort of having a tribunal which they know will be fair, independent, and free from any sort of political influence carries very considerable weight. The judiciary has another significant asset: the expertise of its judges, many of whom will have acted on the very sorts of disputes which they have to determine.

Judges have also assisted
with establishing London
as a jurisdiction of choice by being prepared to develop innovative legal remedies and adapt old remedies to modern circumstances, particularly in the area of interim remedies. Two examples are the willingness of the courts to make passport delivery orders and to use their contempt jurisdiction to ensure that litigants are not able to get away with ignoring court orders.

London's legal framework also has another major advantage, matched possibly only by New York: the vast array of high-quality law firms available that are capable of running huge pieces of litigation. Add to that the London Bar, with the high-quality advocacy service it can offer, and you have a winning combination.

A final attraction of the London commercial courts is the ease with which an English judgment may be enforced abroad, particularly within Europe. This is particularly useful when wealthy individuals with assets in multiple jurisdictions are involved. (Whether Britain's decision to leave the EU will have any impact on the ease with which English judgments can be enforced in the rest of Europe remains to be seen.)

Will London retain its place as the forum of choice for Russian-related litigation? It seems so. There is little sign that this stream of work is drying up: from the extraordinary Berezovksy v Abramovich litigation, to Cherney v Deripaska and, more recently, the Pugachev litigation, it seems that oligarchs will, one way or another, continue to keep London lawyers busy for some time to come.

Adil Mohamedbhai is a barrister at Serle Court