The Battle of Minsk [2016] EWHC 15 (Ch)

The Battle of Minsk [2016] EWHC 15 (Ch)

Commercial and Chancery

More than 3 years after the proceedings were first commenced and following appeals against both jurisdiction and the refusal of security for costs (see Bennet Invest Limited [2015] 1582 (ch)) judgment has now been handed down in the case of Hniazdzilau v. (1) Vajgel (2) Enriquez and (3) Bronovets [2016] EWHC 15 (Ch).

In a 92 page judgment, Mr Jeremy Cousins QC (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) found for the Claimant on his claim to be the beneficial owner of the English registered company Bennet Invest Limited and thus its commercial property in Minsk, Belarus that was said to be worth some $6 million.   After what the Judge described as “searching cross-examination”, he rejected almost the entirety of the Defendants’ evidence and found that the Company’s issued share capital was held on trust for the Claimant and that the Third Defendant had acted in breach of this trust whilst engaged as the Claimant’s lawyer. He also dismissed a defence of illegality that had been raised by the Defendants at the close of the evidence. Pursuant to these findings the Judge awarded the Claimant 90% of his costs on an indemnity basis.

Lasting some 12 days, the trial saw evidence being given by video link from Minsk, Moscow and Chicago and involved the extensive use of interpreters.

Clifford Darton and Paul Powlesland represented the successful Claimant instructed by James Robertson of HCLS