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The perils of operating in the Russian market were highlighted last week when the Moscow offices of DLA Piper and White & Case were raided by government authorities.
As The Lawyer exclusively reported last Tuesday (16 June), both firms were subject to office searches last week in connection with a government investigation.
Documents were seized during the raids on the business centres that house the two firms’ Moscow offices, although it is not known whether any were taken from the firms.
The investigation centres on an $87.5m (£53.5m) fraud related to the redevelopment of the Hotel Moskva. The criminal action was initiated by the Investigating Committee at the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation (SKP) on 1 June this year.
Both firms issued statements confirming that neither had been implicated in the investigation.
“White & Case is cooperating fully with Moscow authorities, as appropriate,” the US firm said. “White & Case and its personnel are not accused of any wrongdoing. However, as this is an ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further.”
Likewise, DLA Piper confirmed that its Moscow office was the subject of a search by the Russian authorities in connection with their investigation of the affairs of a former client.
“The investigation does not concern DLA Piper or any of its employees and our office is operating normally,” it added. “In the circumstances, we are unable to make any further comment.”
The dramatic events of last week were a reminder of how fraught life in the Russian market can be. The raids echoed those on the Moscow headquarters of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 2007 in connection with the criminal inquiry into oil giant and PwC client Yukos.
As a Moscow partner revealed, these events can occasionally lead to more than a spot of inconvenience for the individuals involved.
“When [law firm] Firestone Duncan was raided last year over an alleged tax fraud, one of its accountants tried to stop the authorities from taking documents and he was beaten up,” said the lawyer.