Two high profile international commercial disputes listed by The Lawyer as being in the top 20 cases of interest to feature in the English courts this year feature Littleton Counsel.
In the first, Charles Samek KC leads the Claimant team in Athena Capital, Raffaele Mincione & Ors v. Secretariat of State of the Holy See (Commercial Court). The trial commences on 24th June 2024 for 14 days.
Described by The Lawyer as “something like out of a Dan Brown or Jeffrey Archer novel”, this case involves the first ever claim against any organ of the Vatican State – the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, the Vatican’s commercial and administrative arm – in the English Courts as it faces proceedings for declaratory relief in relation to a transaction relating to the purchase of a landmark property on London’s Sloane Avenue, the former Harrods depository. The Claimants’ legal team is led by Charles Samek KC with Tetyana Nesterchuk of Fountain Court Chambers as his junior. They are instructed by Peter Wood, Global Head of Litigation, Giulia Trojano and Chloe Flascher at Withers. Vatican criminal proceedings which were in part concerned with the 2018 transaction which is the subject of the English proceedings resulted in Charles’ client Raffaele Mincione being acquitted and found not guilty of charges in relation to the 2018 transaction, albeit he was convicted in relation to events dating back to 2014 and which he is appealing. Previously the Secretariat had unsuccessfully tried to resist the jurisdiction of the English court, but had secured from the judge what was effectively an indefinite state of the proceedings, but that was overturned by a unanimous Court of Appeal: see  1 WLR 1389 and  WLR 4570.
Alexander Halban led by Essex Court silks in Gorbachev v Guriev (Commercial Court, 15 April 2024 – 6 weeks)
Alexander is instructed in Gorbachev v Guriev, a £1 billion battle between a Russian political exile, Alexander Gorbachev, and a former Russian senator, Andrey Guriev, and which will reach its pinnacle during a six-week trial in April and May. The case is the culmination of a decade-long case over ownership of the global chemicals company PhosAgro. PhosAgro was previously majority-owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the owner of the Yukos oil company, and Mr Gorbachev and Mr Guriev worked as senior managers. Mr Gorbachev was forced into exile from Russia by a Russian prosecution, part of the Russian state’s investigation into Yukos. He claims that Mr Guriev, who came to own all of PhosAgro, deprived him of a 25% stake in the company which he held on trust for him (under declarations made in London in 2005). Both parties will appear at trial to give evidence about their history, their relationship and what was or was not said between them in 2005. The dispute has already spawned high-profile interim order judgments on service and third-party disclosure (in the Court of Appeal reported at  1 WLR 2457). The final merits judgment will inevitably be extremely high profile – not just in the UK, but globally. Alexander Halban of Littleton Chambers is one of the counsel team for the Claimant, Alexander Gorbachev, led by Paul Stanley KC and David Scorey KC of Essex Court Chambers and together with Christopher Lloyd, also of Essex Court Chambers. They are instructed by CMS partners Bernard O’Sullivan and Luke Pardey.