The court's decision excludes Gazprom’s $140 million claim from the proceedings and denies any refund claims from Lazarenko’s bank accounts. The U.S. government is involved in a long-running dispute over the ownership of some $260 million in assets originating from extortion and money laundering by Lazarenko who was sentenced in August 2006 by a San Francisco federal district court to nine years in prison.
The U.S. government argues it has the right to claim the funds in Lazarenko’s bank accounts in Switzerland, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Antigua and the Channel Islands because the former Ukrainian premier committed some of his offences on American soil.
However, aside from the U.S. government, several companies including Gazprom have also laid claims on Lazarenko’s money.
Gazprom’s lawyers argue that during his tenure in office in 1996-1997, Lazarenko unlawfully embezzled funds intended to be used as payment for Gazprom’s natural gas supplies to Ukraine under contracts with Ukraine's Unified Energy System.
However, the U.S. lower court excluded Gazprom from the case on the grounds that the U.S. government’s position did not concur with Russian law, which sets out Gazprom’s claims.
Gazprom appealed against the decision, arguing the U.S. Justice Department was largely ignoring the overwhelmingly foreign nature of the case.
The company’s lawyers said in a brief filed last year that the guilty parties, the fraud victims, source of the proceeds, current location of the proceeds and the substantive unlawful conduct were all entirely foreign.
Based on these arguments, Gazprom’s lawyers say the case should not be examined under U.S. law and instead each claim should be heard under the law of the country where it is filed.
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