The vodka tycoon is becoming an enemy of the people
The incidents of conflict between the Russian and foreign justice are becoming more and more frequent. There is one interesting aspect: Russia is usually represented by the Supreme Court or the Supreme Arbitration Court, whereas the foreign party is represented by a county or even a district court. Yesterday, it was announced that a group of companies, S.P.I., in which the notorious Joint-Stock Company Soyuzplodimport (S.P.I.) is included, will sue the Russian Federation in the court of Rotterdam: the vodka tycoon demands compensation for damage that was allegedly caused to his business by the Russian state.
The dispute about the rights of Russia’s most famous vodka trade marks (Stolichnaya, Russkaya, Moskovskaya, Limonnaya, Kubanskaya, and others) has been going on for years now. It was the state monopoly Soyuzplodimport that exported Russian vodka abroad during the communist era. This monopoly was privatized during the wild years of the reforms, with the participation of the state and foreign capital. The S.P.I. group created new joint venture at that time. When the joint venture fell apart in 1997, the Russian enterprise S.P.I. retained the rights for the trademarks of popular Russian vodkas. As a result, S.P.I. flooded the European and American markets with "Russian" vodkas of the Latvian production, since there were powerful adversaries in Russia, who prevented the production of the Russian vodka.
The Russian state and its spokesman, Deputy Minister for Agriculture Vladimir Loginov, turned out to be S.P.I.’s major adversary. Mr. Loginov directly participated in over a dozen lawsuits. As a result, Russia’s Supreme Arbitration Court ruled that the privatization of the Soviet monopoly Soyuzplodimport was illegal. Therefore, S.P.I. obtained the rights to vodka trade marks in an illegitimate way as well. The Russian Patent Agency registered the trade mark rights for the Russian Ministry for Agriculture, which then gave them to the new Soyuzplodimport, the official successor of the Soviet vodka monopoly. The head of this new organization is once again Vladimir Loginov.
Further events were dramatic. Vladimir Loginov went to the Office of the Prosecutor General and said that Yury Shefler, the head of S.P.I., allegedly threatened to kill him in a telephone conversation. The office instituted criminal proceedings, and Shefler’s name appeared on the federal “wanted” list.
Shefler, the vodka tycoon, was very surprised when he learned about it. He accused Loginov of lies and of all other sins. Shefler was even going to come to Russia and "struggle" for justice, but then he rethought and decided that it would be better to clear his name from afar. Now, Yury Shefler charges Russia with causing damage to his business; he does not want to search for the truth. The tycoon would like to receive five million euros for each proven episode of the Russian activity against S.P.I.
It is not ruled out that the vodka businessman was inspired by the experience of the notorious company Noga, which has been holding trials against Russia in different countries for almost ten years (sometimes succeeding with decisions to seize Russian property abroad). Noga went bankrupt over that period of time and "optain" possession of its gullible shareholders and creditors' nibet. However, the Swiss company blamed Russia for its bankruptcy, encouraging the creditors to make Russia pay for its debts with the help of the courts.
Russian foreign policy officials are becoming rather irritated with the whole matter. It would be interesting to see how Yury Shefler is going to make Russia pay him millions of euros with the help of a decision from the Rotterdam court (if the decision is in his favor, of course). On the other hand, Russian vodka producers are experiencing serious sales problems due to S.P.I.’s monopoly on the international markets. Shefler’s lawsuit will exacerbate the situation even further, causing significant damage to the Russian vodka on overseas markets.
One has to bear in mind that there might be someone who might sue Shefler at the Hague Tribunal, charging him with the violation of the antimonopoly law of the USA. The situation will be messed up again, but the issue of trade mark will remain unsolved.
There is only one thing clear: Yury Shefler is the enemy of millions of Russian citizens, who pay their tributes to the remarkable qualities of the true Russian vodka. Everyone knows in Russia that vodka is the national property. Dmitry Slobodyanyuk PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
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