July 12 2022
The Thirteenth Arbitration Court of Appeal upheld the Arbitration Court of the Murmansk Region, which invalidated the auction of six ships and real estate of Murmansk Shipping Company JSC (declared bankrupt).
The ruling of the court of first instance was issued on April 22 following the consideration of the complaint of the Federal Tax Service of Russia.
As the court found, six vessels and MSC real estate were sold at auction in November 2021. The only bidder was Cassiopeia LLC (Moscow), founded less than two months before the auction. The contract was supposed to be concluded at a starting price of 1.771 billion rubles. Previously, the provision on the procedure, terms and conditions for the sale of MSC property was approved by the creditor, Resheniye LLC. At the same time, the creditor and the buyer of the collateral property turned out to be affiliated persons, since they are controlled by Farisia limited (Cyprus). The ultimate beneficiary is a citizen of the Russian Federation Alexei Bogachev (owner of Sistema Bank).
Subsequently, the Arbitration Court of the Murmansk Region, at the request of the Federal Tax Service, prohibited the conclusion of a sales contract with Cassiopeia LLC.
The court found that the procedure for conducting auctions of MSC property included in the register of strategic organizations was violated. As a result, the auction was declared invalid. In addition, the arbitration recognized as illegal the inaction of the bankruptcy trustee of the MSC in terms of failure to take measures to appeal the provision on the sale of the debtor’s collateral property.
As reported, two ro-ro vessels Kapitan Danilkin and Yury Arshenevsky, bulk carrier Grumant, icebreaker Vladimir Ignatyuk, oil tanker Kotlas and the passenger ship Klavdiya Yelanskaya were put up for auction as part of one lot worth 1 billion 771 million rubles in October 2021. The same lot included the Moryak hotel, a building in Portovy proezd with indoor and outdoor parking in Murmansk, premises in a building in Moscow, several land plots and the right to long-term land lease.
Previously, the lot also included the building of the MSP Museum in the center of Murmansk. However, Legal Space LLC, the organizer of the auction discovered that the building had the status of an object of cultural heritage of the peoples of the Russian Federation and excluded it from the lot.
The monitoring procedure for MSC was introduced in March 2020, for bankruptcy proceedings – in October 2020. This procedure has been extended to 6 October 2022.
The ICR, with regard to the beneficiary of the MSC, Nikolay Kulikov, is investigating criminal cases under part 2 of article 201 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (abuse of authority that entailed grave consequences) and part 4 of article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (fraud committed on an especially large scale). During searches in September 2019, documents related to the activities of offshore companies, as well as expensive art objects, were seized. From the materials of the Murmansk Regional Court it follows that the amount of damage by four imputed episodes is about 1.27 billion rubles.
MSC, which provided the bulk of Russian-flagged cargo transportation in the Russian sector of the Arctic, began to experience financial difficulties in 2018.