Big Story 10

Dutch court orders freeze on Ukraine tycoon's assets

KIEV (Reuters) - A Dutch court has issued a provisional order to freeze the Netherlands-based companies of the flagship business group owned by Ukraine’s richest man in connection with a long-running $820 million lawsuit.

Systems Capital Management (SCM) is owned by Rinat Akhmetov, who has amassed a multi-billion dollar fortune through his conglomerate’s industrial and financial holdings, and owns Ukrainian soccer club FC Shakhtar Donetsk.

In December, a Cypriot court issued a provisional worldwide asset freezing order against Akhmetov and various SCM companies - part of a legal dispute with Cyprus-based firm Raga, which says SCM has not paid it in full for the 2013 sale of telecoms group Ukrtelecom.

A Dutch court has now issued a provisional ruling to freeze SCM’s Netherlands-registered businesses, which include Ukraine’s largest steel company Metinvest [METIV.UL] and largest private power and coal producer, DTEK [DTEKF.UL].

Raga’s representative sent Reuters a copy of the ruling on Monday. The decisions are not publicly available, but Reuters requested a copy of the ruling from the court on Tuesday.

SCM said on Tuesday it was not aware of the Dutch court decision.

“As far as the work of the SCM group’s assets is concerned, they continue to work as usual,” it said in an emailed statement

SCM has said it will appeal the Cypriot court’s ruling. The next hearing is on Feb. 27, according to Raga’s representative.

“The entities of SCM group will also vigorously defend themselves against baseless claims by Raga Establishment Limited that gave rise to issuance of the interim order,” SCM said on Friday.

Raga says SCM has failed to pay an $820 million debt due as a result of arbitration rulings in Raga’s favor in 2017.

The latest court orders against Akhmetov and SCM follow a UK court’s December decision to freeze the worldwide assets of Ukraine’s second- and third-richest men, Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov, in an unrelated case.

Additional reporting by Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Matthias Williams and Mark Potter