Yukos shareholders take on Russian govt

The battle surrounding embattled Russian oil giant Yukos has escalated, with its core shareholders instructing lawyers to act against the Russian authorities should the company be forced into bankruptcy.

US firm Greenberg Traurig and tiny two-partner Canadian firm Amsterdam & Peroff have won instructions from Group Menatep, the group behind Yukos.

It is understood that John Pappalardo, Greenberg Traurig’s Boston-based co-managing partner and an expert in white collar defence and federal and state investigations, is leading the team.

Amsterdam is already defending former Yukos chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the company’s former head of security Platon Lebedev on counts of fraud and tax evasion.

The trial continues in the Meshchansky Court of Moscow.

The instructions mark a phase of increasing aggression on the part of Menatep following the appointment of new Menatep directors earlier this year. Among them are Tim Osborne, a partner at Cheltenham tax boutique Wiggin Osborne Fullerlove, which last year broke away from Wiggin & Co. Also appointed to the board was Denton Wilde Sapte partner Nicholas Keeling, representing a corporate director.

Osborne said any potential action would arise out of bilateral investment treaties or under rules of international law prohibiting ‘illegal taking’.