Thursday , October 21 2021
The Power of Money: How Autocrats Use London to Strike Foes Worldwide

The Power of Money: How Autocrats Use London to Strike Foes Worldwide

Many English lawyers and judges maintain that freezing orders are essential to restrict fraudsters, and defend the openness of their courts to lawsuits and evidence originating in countries with compromised legal systems. Assessing all the evidence, they contend, regardless of where it came from or how it got there, better serves justice.

“Admissibility of evidence makes U.K. courts more attractive for this kind of litigation than countries like the U.S.,” said Pavel Tokarev, a former Diligence investigator who left in 2019 to start his own agency. “The rules of accepting evidence, it’s very flexible in the U.K.”

The jailhouse evidence from Ms. Tyshchenko is a case in point.

To acquire it, Mr. Hardman worked with Andrei A. Pavlov, a Russian lawyer hired by BTA Bank. The United States and Britain would later place sanctions on Mr. Pavlov for his alleged role in a criminal conspiracy that led to the 2009 death in a Moscow prison of the whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky. Mr. Pavlov, in an interview in Moscow, said he had been unfairly smeared and had done nothing wrong. He said he was proud to have worked with Mr. Hardman because of his London partner’s reputation as an outstanding lawyer.

Faced with complaints that Hogan Lovells had not fully informed the court that Ms. Tyshchenko provided her evidence under duress, an English judge ruled they had followed disclosure rules by stating that she was incarcerated when she first provided the information. But the judge was not asked to rule on whether the circumstances of her incarceration — the fact that she was in a Russian prison — should also be considered, as well as the involvement of Mr. Pavlov and questions about whether Ms. Tyshchenko had been mistreated.

Moreover, while Ms. Tyshchenko remained in prison, another Hogan Lovells attorney convinced an English judge to grant an order that required her husband in Britain to hand over records and other information. Among the supporting evidence the law firm submitted were “press reports” from compromat.ru, a Russian website notorious as a clearing house for unverified and sometimes fabricated information.

Hogan Lovells said that London’s High Court had already rejected complaints of the firm “behaving improperly” in Ms. Tyshchenko’s case, and stated that it “complies fully” with the rules of evidence. The information from compromat.ru was “one small part of a much larger collection of evidence that the court accepted justified the granting of the order” in the case against Ms. Tyshchenko, the firm said.

Ms. Tyshchenko was less sanguine. “There are no good guys in this affair,” she said.

If some of London’s law firms have reaped rich rewards by defending oligarchs and former Soviet countries, they have sometimes been less successful at recovering funds for those clients. As of November 2020, BTA Bank had recovered just $45 million of the more than $6 billion it claims Mr. Ablyazov stole, its chairman said in a recent affidavit.

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