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Russia denies reports of new asset seizures in Noga claim

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No new Russian Central Bank assets in Switzerland have been frozen in a legal claim by trading company Noga, the Russian Finance Ministry said on Friday.
MOSCOW, January 25 (RIA Novosti) - No new Russian Central Bank assets in Switzerland have been frozen in a legal claim by trading company Noga, the Russian Finance Ministry said on Friday.

The Swiss Supreme Court in Lausanne upheld Noga's claim against Russia, the country's ATS news agency reported on Thursday. The court ruling rejected an appeal by the Russian government and granted the company a legal claim on the Russian Central Bank's accounts at three Swiss-based banks - UBS, Credit Suisse, BNP Paribas Suisse.

"A recent ruling by a Swiss court has only upheld the so called provisional seizure of funds made under Noga's claim filed in 2002, but does not give it any right to freeze any new accounts," the ministry said in a press release posted on its website.

However, the ruling said that the documents presented by Noga provided sufficient grounds for freezing Russian accounts on Swiss territory.

Nessim Gaon, the Noga owner was cited by The Associated Press as saying: "The Russian government must pay. They have kept us waiting for 14 years."

According to court documents, Noga is seeking to recover $1.09 billion, plus interest.

An official at a state debt collection office, Olivier Chollet, told AP: "The sum that would be seized could be up to the amount of the outstanding debt."

Certain assets of Russian organizations, including accounts held by Russia's Central Bank and news agency RIA Novosti were frozen in France earlier this month over Noga's 49 million euro ($73 million) claim to secure the repayment of debts under barter oil deals struck with Russia's government in the early 1990s.

RIA Novosti, which is an independent commercial organization, said it would take legal action against Noga to free its assets and would also file a lawsuit for damages.

A 5% stake held by Russian state-run corporation Development Bank (Vnesheconombank) in the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) is not among Russian assets frozen in France, the corporation's head said earlier on Friday.

Last Thursday Antoine Korkmaz, a lawyer for the Swiss firm Noga, said EADS shares were among some 15 Russian assets held in French banks and companies, such as Calyon and Natexis, that were seized by bailiffs January 2, on Noga's behest.

"EADS assets have not been seized," Vladimir Dmitriyev said. "At least we have no information about this."

Russian foreign trade bank VTB bought the stake in EADS over a year ago for around $1 billion. The bank sold the stake to the Development Bank in late 2007.

Russian government property in France was seized pursuant to a ruling passed by the Stockholm Arbitration Court in favor of Noga in 1997.

However, lawyers representing the Russian side say that Noga has misled the French judicial authorities, as it no longer has a right of claim under the arbitration ruling.

Alexander Kogan, a U.S. businessman of Russian origin, told a press conference on January 22 that he repurchased Russia's debt from Noga's four creditor banks in 2006 and transferred it to Russia.

According to Kogan, Noga went bankrupt and ceded Russia's debt, estimated by the Stockholm arbitration tribunal at around $70 million, to four Swiss banks back in 1993.

The lawyers say Noga has ceded its claims to four Swiss banks and that following a series of subsequent re-assignments these claims have been acquired by the Russian side. The powers earlier granted by the four Swiss banks to Noga to demand compensation from Russia have been annulled.

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