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Norex Suit Against Blavatnik, Access Over Yugraneft Put on Hold

Norex Petroleum Ltd.’s lawsuit against billionaire Leonard Blavatnik, his Access Industries Inc. and 13 other defendants was put on hold by a New York judge, according to a lawyer in the case.

The judge also rejected an attempt by Norex to prevent BP Plc from concluding a deal with Access and Renova Inc., said Faith Gay, a lawyer for Blavatnik and Access Industries.

Norex sued in state court in Manhattan in March, accusing Blavatnik and others of scheming to strip its controlling interest in a Russian oil company with an estimated value of $500 million. The state suit followed dismissal of a federal court suit alleging racketeering based on the same transaction. The defendants in the state suit include TNK-BP Ltd., a joint venture with BP Plc.

“This new state lawsuit, which is simply a rehash of the federal lawsuit, which Norex already lost, has now been put on hold until the loss in the federal court is made final,” Gay said today in a phone interview.

Norex has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review dismissal of the federal case.

A Norex motion, filed yesterday, for a preliminary injunction to stop the proposed transaction with BP was also denied. The “attempt to prevent BP from concluding a deal with Access and Renova was rejected by the court,” Gay said.

New York state Supreme Court Justice Eileen Bransten’s rulings couldn’t immediately be confirmed in court records.

Barry Ostrager, an attorney for Norex, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. Representatives of Norex, a Cypriot company, didn’t immediately return a call to its Calgary office.

Armed Militiamen

In the suit, Norex claimed that New York-based Access and other defendants took control of ZAO Yugraneft Corp. through illegal means, including corrupting Russian court proceedings and sending militiamen armed with AK-47s to storm Yugraneft’s offices and production field. Norex is seeking damages of at least $500 million.

In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the federal racketeering case, citing a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that limits the reach of civil claims for acts occurring outside the country.

Access is a closely held company controlled by Blavatnik, who was ranked No. 93 on Forbes magazine’s 2010 list of the world’s billionaires.

The case is Norex Petroleum Ltd. v. Access Industries Inc., 650591/2011, New York state Supreme Court (Manhattan).

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