Shareholders in a Maltese company behind a Russian online retail giant are locked in million-euro legal battles that have been playing out in London, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Russia and Malta.

The Russian online retail giant Ulmart is owned by three shareholders through the Maltese company Ulmart Holdings Limited (UHL).

The London Court of International Arbitration ordered two companies with shares in UHL to pay a third business partner $67 million (€58.5 million) following accusations that they intentionally diverted money away from the Maltese company.

UHL shareholders Koshigi Ltd and Svoboda Corporation were ordered to pay Donna Union Foundation the million-euro figure after the London tribunal found they had acted in concert to divert corporate opportunities away from the Maltese holding company in an unfairly prejudicial manner.

The two UHL shareholders were said to have participated in “sham transactions”, for the purpose of disadvantaging Donna Union.

UHL insolvent and unable to repay its debts

A judgment handed down by a BVI court last month, upholding a worldwide freezing and asset disclosure order against Koshigi Ltd and Svoboda Corporation, says the two UHL shareholders began to dissipate their assets prior to the London tribunal handing down its €58.5 million share buyout order.

Two of the Maltese company’s shareholders also feature in court cases in Russia.

The online retail giant’s founder Dmitry Kostygin, owner of Koshigi Ltd, has been charged in Russia with fraudulently obtaining a €13 million loan from a Russian bank. He denies all the charges.

Another UHL shareholder, Donna Union’s Michael Vasinkevich, was reportedly declared bankrupt in October on the back of a bankruptcy petition filed by Mr Kostygin.

On the local front, the Maltese company is facing an application for it to be dissolved and wound up by the courts over a $30 million (€26 million) debt owed to a Panama-registered company called Ledaro Investments SA.

In court filings, Ledaro Investment’s lawyer John Refalo noted that UHL has never filed any accounts and does not have an auditor.

Dr Refalo said that UHL does not appear to have assets apart from a number of subsidiaries in Cyprus and Russia.

The lawyer said that UHL’s online retail business in Russia appeared to be in financial difficult and did not have enough money to cover the $30 million loan given to it by Ledaro Investments.

In the court application, Dr Refalo said UHL is insolvent and unable to repay its debts.

The company should be dissolved and wound up by the court, Dr Refalo said.

A Times of Malta request for comment from UHL’s local corporate service provider, Estera Corporate Services, was turned down.

jacob.borg@timesofmalta.com

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