A dispute over purported agreements to acquire ships and various other marine vessels from an Irish-registered company whose alleged ultimate parent is the Russian state has come before the High Court.
Related Cypriot-registered companies involved in shipping have brought proceedings over several marine vessels they leased from GTLK Europe Designated Activity Company, which has a registered address in Hume Street, Dublin 2.
The Central Bank of Ireland is also a defendant in the proceedings.
The court heard that the Cypriot companies claim that as part of the lease agreements they are entitled to purchase the various vessels, worth an estimated millions of euro, in question from GTLK.
It is claimed that the company, which leases out aircraft and marine vessels, is ultimately owned by the Russian state’s transport authority.
The firm became the subject of international sanctions introduced following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Several preliminary issues in the actions were briefly mentioned before the Court this week.
The actions will return before the court early next week.
On Thursday, Marcus Dowling SC, appearing with Stephen Brittain for Cypriot-based Gravelor Shipping Limited, Avonburg Finance Ltd and its shareholders Capstans Holding Limited and Valbridge Ltd, said the cases his clients have brought are extremely complex and urgent.
His clients’ case is that they had entered into leasing agreements for the marine vessels with GTLK. His clients are not the subject of any international sanctions; however, GTLK and related entities are, counsel said.
Under the terms of the leasing agreements, it is their claim that they are entitled to purchase the vessels they had initially leased.
Counsel said that arising out of the sanctions they have brought claims against GTLK and a related Maltese-based entity called GTLK Malta seeking to have the sales of the vessels “specifically performed”.
Counsel said that one of the major issues in the cases, when the proceedings were first mentioned before the courts last month, was that deadline had been set by the European Union in early December for such transactions to be completed.
However, counsel said that matters had become even more extreme and urgent when the United States’ department of the treasury recently set a deadline of early September for deals with sanctioned entities such as GTLK to be concluded.
Counsel said that his clients could end up being sanctioned themselves if they were to do any business with GTLK after the deadlines expire.
Counsel said his clients had also added the Central Bank as a defendant to their proceedings.
Counsel said the Central Bank is the entity which regulates sanctions taken against Russia, and Russian-linked entities in this jurisdiction.
The Central Bank would have to approve any acquisition of any of GTLK’s assets to the Cypriot entities.
Counsel said his client had written to the Central Bank about the matter but had not received any meaningful response.
While it was accepted that the Central Bank is extremely busy, counsel said that its attitude to issues raised by his clients is currently “not known”.
However, he added that solicitors for the regulator had in correspondence indicated that they did not think that the Cypriot-based entities’ actions were something that could be done summarily by the courts.
His clients were very concerned, especially about the looming deadline imposed by the US authorities and wanted the cases to be determined by the court as soon as possible, he said.
Ruling on the preliminary issues, Ms Justice Carmel Stewart, on an ex-parte (one side only) basis, granted the plaintiff companies permission to amend their summons to allow them to serve their proceedings on the Maltese-based defendant.
Mr Dowling said his client needed to make the application because of an issue regarding that particular defendant’s correct address.
The matters were adjourned to next Tuesday’s sitting of the court.