THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch Supreme Court on Friday upheld part of a Russian appeal against a $50 billion arbitration award to former shareholders of bankrupted oil giant Yukos and quashed a lower court's decision to uphold the award.
The decision extends the years-long legal battle between Russia and former Yukos shareholders over what is thought to be the world’s biggest arbitral award.
The highest Dutch court ruled that a lower appeal court in The Hague wrongly dismissed, on procedural grounds, Russia’s claim that “shareholders committed fraud in the arbitral proceedings.”
“Today the Supreme Court quashed the appeal court’s final judgement as well as the court’s preceding judgement,” the court said in a statement.
The Supreme Court referred the case to the Amsterdam Court of Appeal for judges there rule to on that issue. The judgment rejected other grounds of appeal put forward by Russia.
In April, an independent adviser to the Supreme Court had recommended that its judges reject Russia’s appeal.
An international panel of arbitrators concluded in 2014 that Moscow seized control of Yukos in 2003 by deliberately crippling the company with huge tax claims. The move was seen as an attempt to silence Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin.
Khodorkovsky was arrested at gunpoint in 2003 and spent more than a decade in prison as Yukos’ main assets were sold to a state-owned company. Yukos ultimately went bankrupt.
The state launched “a full assault on Yukos and its beneficial owners in order to bankrupt Yukos and appropriate its assets while, at the same time, removing Mr. Khodorkovsky from the political arena,” the arbitrators said in their 2014 ruling.
Moscow appealed the arbitration decision and a Dutch court in The Hague set aside the ruling in 2016, saying the arbitration panel did not have jurisdiction, but an appeals court later overturned that verdict. Russia appealed again, sending the case to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court on Friday set aside the previous rulings by the Hague courts.
Khodorkovsky is not involved in the case, which was brought by former shareholders united in a company called GML Ltd.