A Russian fugitive facing a £1.34bn fraud claim from a bankrupt lender can sell London properties worth around £35m to developers to fund his defence, a High Court judge has ruled.
Georgy Bedzhamov has been granted permission ‘in principle’ to sell two properties in Belgravia in order to pay £5m to his former lawyers Mishcon de Reya and a further £5m to his current representatives Greenberg Traurig, as well as other debts and expenses.
The court heard that Bedzhamov owes Mishcon over £5m – which is secured by a first charge on the property – and has already incurred costs of more than £500,000 with Greenberg after partner Martin Shobbrook took the case with him when he moved firms in October.
Vneshprombank (VPB) obtained a worldwide freezing order (WFO) against Bedzhamov in 2019, shortly after suing over a ‘massive fraud’ allegedly carried out by Bedzhamov and his sister Larisa Markus, VPB’s former president who was jailed after pleading guilty to fraud and embezzlement.
Bedzhamov, who is defending the claim and says criminal charges brought against him in Russia relating to VPB’s collapse are ‘politically motivated’, was initially permitted to spend £80,000 a month under the freezing order, which was later increased to around £240,000 by the Court of Appeal.
He applied in February to vary the order so he could sell his Belgravia properties to a developer with a view to selling for a minimum of £75m which would make Bedzhamov an estimated profit of £12m, with some of the proceeds to be spent on legal fees.
Mrs Justice Falk ruled last week that Bedzhamov should be permitted to sell the property and use some of the proceeds of the sale to pay for past and future legal fees. ‘In principle, and subject to it being satisfied about the detailed terms of the transaction and the identity of the participants, the court would be prepared to entertain and approve a transaction with a third-party lender and developer along the lines of the proposal,’ she said.
The judge also held that, subject to further evidence on whether Bedzhamov has any other assets, ‘reasonable sums in respect of legal advice and representation, and in respect of living expenses to the extent permitted by the WFO, may be spent from the proceeds of sale’.
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