For many years the High Court in London has been a favoured forum for resolving disputes arising in Russia, particularly those involving oligarchs.
There have frequently been questions as to whether the English Court had jurisdiction to hear the claims in question. The recent decision in PJSC National Bank Trust v Mints marks an interesting development in this area, as the High Court found that concerns that defendants might claim that judgments obtained in Russia were politically influenced justified the decision of the claimants in bringing their claims before the English Court when they were otherwise in all respects 'Russian'.
The decision in National Bank Trust concerned an application to set aside permission to serve proceedings on three Russian defendants domiciled outside of the jurisdiction (the "Non-Domiciled Defendants, referred to here as the "NDDs"). The NDDs were alleged to be a party to a conspiracy which was the subject of a claim already brought against four other Russian defendants who were present in England (the "Mints Defendants").
Although the NDDs had no connection to England, the claimants argued that they could be joined to proceedings as necessary and proper parties to the claims already on foot. The Court's analysis focused on the issue that were it to refuse jurisdiction over the claim against the NDDs it would increase the risk of inconsistency between the High Court's eventual judgment in the claims against the Mints Defendants, and the judgment(s) in proceedings brought elsewhere against the NDDs.
The NDDs argued that the risk of inconsistency only arose because of the claimants' choice to sue the Mints Defendants in England, rather than the natural forum, Russia. But the Court concluded that this was an entirely reasonable decision of the claimants, given the risk that the NDDs might seek to resist the enforcement of judgments made in Russia.
If this decision, which is now under appeal, is correct and proves indicative of the approach that the Courts will now take forwards, then it is likely to assist many prospective claimants seeking to bring 'Russian' claims in England.