France Froze $1 Billion in Russia Funds Over Yukos, GML Says

  • Russian space agency Roscosmos says money frozen last summer
  • Former Yukos owners are seeking to recover $50 billion award

France has frozen about $1 billion, including money owed to Russian state-run space entities, as part of a $50 billion award against Russia for dismembering the Yukos Oil Co., according to former owners of the company.

A final decision on the sums seized is expected by the end of this year or the beginning of 2017, GML Ltd., a holding company belonging to four former Yukos owners, said Monday in an e-mailed statement. The funds include $300 million owed by Arianespace to Roscosmos for Soyuz rockets and $400 million owed by Eutelsat to Russian Satellite Communications Company, the American Lawyer journal reported last week.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in 2014 that Russia is liable to pay almost half of the $103 billion plus interest sought by GML, which doesn’t include Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky among its owners. Belgium and France began collecting the damages last year, sparking Russian protests. A district court in The Hague is due to rule later this month on a Russian appeal against the award, a decision which can be contested further up to the Dutch Supreme Court.

“The debt’s history began last summer,” Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said in an interview on Rossiya 24 state television Monday. “We have every reason to hope for a positive outcome.”

Russia is fighting a legal battle with former owners of Yukos, once the country’s biggest oil producer, which was dismantled amid billions of dollars of tax claims that Khodorkovsky called revenge by the Kremlin for his funding of opposition parties. The tycoon, formerly Russia’s richest man, is campaigning in exile for the ouster of President Vladimir Putin, who issued a pardon to free him in 2013 after a decade in prison on convictions for fraud and tax evasion linked to Yukos.

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