The joint liquidators of two Irish-based Russian state-owned aircraft and ship leasing firms have asked the High Court for orders which they say they need to effectively wind up the companies.
Late last month, the High Court appointed Damien Murran and Julian Moroney of Teneo Restructuring Ireland as joint liquidators to GTLK Europe DAC, and GTLK Europe Captial DAC after Mr Justice Conor Dignam dismissed the firms’ application to be placed into examinership.
The companies are worth an estimated $4.5 billion (€4.1 billion), and their liquidations have been described as the biggest in the history of the State.
The firms’ financial difficulties arise from the economic sanctions imposed on Russian entities following last year’s invasion of Ukraine.
In the Republic, the Central Bank of Ireland is the official body tasked with overseeing the sanction regime. When the liquidation was mentioned before Mr Justice Rory Mulcahy on Thursday, James Doherty SC for the liquidators said that while there have been good and generally positive exchanges between his clients and the Central Bank regarding the liquidation, several complex matters of concern remain.
Due to the sanctions, the liquidators need to apply to the Central Bank for permission, or a derogation, to allow them to carry out transactions involving the firms.
As a result, the liquidators, in order to progress the winding up in an efficient manner, have asked the court to fix a hearing of its application for various orders and declarations that formally recognise that the liquidators, and not any Russian entities, have effective control of the companies.
Counsel said there was added urgency to the application as following the court’s decision to wind up the firms. a director of the companies, Roman Lyadov, who had sworn statements on behalf of the firms in various proceedings before the courts, appears to have left Ireland and returned to Russia.
Counsel added that the firms’ computer server had crashed shortly after the court made the orders appointing the liquidators.
This, he said, made the liquidators’ ability to access the firms’ books and records extremely difficult.
In reply, lawyers for the Central Bank said it required time to reply to the liquidator’s application.
The matter raised complex and novel issues concerning insolvency of corporate entities that are subject to sanctions.
The European Commission would also need to be consulted about the matter, which would also take time, the court also heard.
Kelley Smith SC, for the four creditors that sought the winding up orders, expressed her clients’ concerns about any delay to the winding-up process.
Counsel said this was particularly so where the location and status of many of GTLK’s assets, including aircraft, remain unknown to her clients.
Mr Justice Mulcahy acknowledged the complexity of the litigation.
He put a timetable in place for the exchange of legal documents and adjourned the matter for two weeks.
The judge said that he hoped a date for the hearing of the liquidators’ application could be fixed on that date.
The four creditors who successfully obtained the winding-up orders include Trinity investments DAC and an associated entity, Allestor Europe Multi Asset Portfolio which is a sub-fund of Allestor Capital ICAV.
The other two creditors are Ben Oldman Special Situations Fund LP and Sona Credit Master Fund Limited which are both registered in the Cayman Islands.
The creditors claim they are owed $178 million by the GTLK Europe group, and that debt is rising,
The creditors claim they entered into a series of agreements to refinance the respondent firms’ debts, where they advanced significant funds to GTLK Europe Captial, of which GTLK was a co-guarantor.
Since the sanctions were imposed, the creditors claim, there has been significant default by GTLK Europe Capital regarding its repayment obligations, specifically the requirement to repay interest due on the loans.
GTLK is Russia’s largest leasing business in the transport sector and leases ships and aircraft to customers all over the world.
GTLK Europe Group’s international leasing business is headquartered in Dublin, and the firms that are sought to be wound up are at the top of the group’s structure.
Several directors of GTLK’s ultimate parent are government ministers or deputy ministers in the Kremlin.