Commercial Court upholds jurisdiction challenge and strikes out claims in respect of the collapse of Russian bank, Promsvyazbank

Tsareva & Ananyev; Galagaev & Ananyev [2019] EWHC 2414 (Comm)

Following the collapse of Promsvyazbank (“PSB”) in 2017, a group of the bank’s customers (the Claimants) alleged that PSB’s relationship managers had induced them into using their bank deposits to invest in certain Notes (which ultimately did not pay out).  The Claimants alleged that there was a fraudulent conspiracy to obtain their money, and brought claims against the ultimate beneficial owners of PSB, Dmitri and Alexei Ananyev (D1 and D2 respectively).  The Claimants alleged that the Issuer and Guarantors (D6-D8), various other companies owned (directly or indirectly) by the Ananyev brothers (D3-5 and D9) and a Cypriot investment firm, Fintailor (D10), were all a part of this conspiracy and sought damages in the tens of millions.  The Claimants also sought a worldwide freezing order (“WFO”) against each of the Defendants including (against D9 and D10) under the Chabra jurisdiction.

The Claimants contended that the English Court had jurisdiction to hear the claims on the basis that they had claims against two English Companies (D3 and D4) alternatively (in relation to the non-EU Defendants) a third company, D5, and that Article 7(2) or 8(1) of the Brussels Recast Regulation and the tort, contract and/or “necessary or proper party” gateways applied variously to the other Defendants.

The Defendants challenged the jurisdiction of the English Court and resisted the grant of any WFO.

Mr Justice Andrew Baker upheld the jurisdiction challenges and dismissed the WFO application.  The Judge held that there was no proper basis for any claim against the English Companies or against D5 (which was also held not to have submitted to the jurisdiction by applying to strike out the claims against it).  In relation to Article 8(1) of the Brussels Recast Regulation, the Judge applied the majority obiter view in Sabbagh v Khoury [2017] EWCA Civ 1120 that a hopeless claim against an anchor defendant does not found jurisdiction.  In relation to Article 7(2) and the tort gateway under the CPR, the Judge held that the Claimants had not suffered any damage in the jurisdiction.  In relation to the contract gateway under the CPR, the Judge held that there was no contractual relationship between the Claimants and the Issuer or Guarantors of the Notes and so they could not establish jurisdiction on that basis.

Accordingly, the Judge held that there was no jurisdiction against any of the Defendants.

The Judge further held that there was no arguable case against Alexei Ananyev (D2) and Fintailor (D10), and no risk of dissipation on the part of any of the Defendants. 

In relation to D2 and D10, the Claimants were ordered to pay their costs assessed on the indemnity basis.

A copy of the full judgment is here.

Alain Choo-Choy QC, Marcos Dracos and Saul Lemer appeared for D1

Neil Kitchener QC and Henry Hoskins appeared for D2

Sam O’Leary appeared for D6-9

Alexander Brown appeared for D10