Argentem Creek Partners & Innovatus Capital Partners Call for Investigation into Kyiv Judge Over Suspected Unlawful Interference in Criminal Investigation of GNT Group

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[New York City, 14 November 2023] Lawyers acting for Argentem Creek Partners Ltd (ACP) and Innovatus Capital Partners (Innovatus) are this week filing a complaint with Ukraines Supreme Council of Justice over suspected unlawful actions undertaken by a Kyiv judge relating debts of over US$120 million owed by GNT Group and allegations of the fraudulent dissipation of more than $130 million of inventory and port terminal and company assets.

Judges in Ukraines courts are subject to an automatic case allocation system designed to decrease judicial corruption. However, a critical court application in February 2023 relating to ACP and Innovatuss allegations of fraud at the GNT Group terminal facilities in Odesa was believed to be unlawfully allocated to Judge Vovk of the Pechersk District Court of Kyiv, circumventing the normal allocation system. The application in question was included as part of an unrelated narcotics case that had been allocated to Vovk, thus avoiding the normal system. Vovk then only registered his decision 9 months later and just before a crucial Supreme Court hearing related to the bankruptcy of one of GNT Groups assets. This allowed GNTs former owners to change the director of bulk goods terminal, Metalsukraine, which was under creditor control.

ACP and Innovatus initially took legal action against GNT Group as a result of the unexplained dissipation of grain inventory worth at least USD 130 million, GNT Groups failure to repay its lenders and fundamental shortcomings of governance and transparency. GNT Group's former owners, Sergiy Groza and Volodomyr Naumenko, have filed more than forty claims to obstruct legitimate enforcement efforts by their creditors, and are suspected in this example and many others of manipulating proceedings with the aim of getting the right judges (colloquially known in Ukraine as a judicial carousel). These efforts are intended to unlawfully obstruct and reverse the creditors enforcement efforts. This latest episode is a brazen example of judicial abuse.

John Patton, Head of EMEA & Asia at ACP said:

This appears to be a highly concerning process involving a Ukrainian judge to manipulate the company register, resulting in an illicit alteration of the directorship of Metalsukraine and substantial commercial damage to the operations of the port. Judge Vovk must explain how an application relating to a suspected fraud against US investors was joined to a completely unrelated narcotics case and how he could even contemplate ruling in such a situation, and why he delayed registering this ruling until a moment which provided maximum benefit to the former owners of GNT Group.

Ana Firmato, Managing Director Innovatus said:

The former owners of GNT Group continue to allege that its US creditors are raiding the group and that our interest is not in the repayment of their loans. This is a plain and simple lie. If they repay their loans then all enforcement actions will cease. Instead of repaying they have been dissipating assets from the group since well before the start of the war. There are now ongoing police investigations in Ukraine and Cyprus, and a Ukrainian notary apparently colluding with GNT is under police investigation.

Earlier this year, the license of notary, Anatolii Guliyev, was suspended by the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice over his conduct in the GNT case. Guliyev is currently being investigated by the National Police and on 29 October 2023 was served with a notice of suspicion.

ACP and Innovatus have a long-standing history of investing in Ukraine. Both companies remain committed in ensuring that this grain terminal is managed correctly according to Ukrainian and international standards.

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