In mid-October 2007, we got a telephone call from a bailiff at the St. Petersburg Arbitration Court inquiring about a judgment against one of the fund's Russian companies. It was a strange call because the company had never been to court and we knew nothing about any lawsuits or judgments in St. Petersburg.
We called Sergei right away and asked him to look into this call. After researching the situation, he came back to us with shocking news. He discovered that our investment companies had been sued by shell companies that we had never done any business with based on forged and backdated contracts. He also discovered that the fund's companies had been represented by lawyers that the fund had never hired, and who proceeded to plead guilty to all the liabilities in the forged contracts. As a result, the fund's companies were hit with court judgments for hundreds of millions of dollars. On top of that, the fund's companies had been fraudulently re-registered in the name of a company owned by a man convicted of manslaughter.
Most shockingly, when Sergei analyzed the forgeries and fraudulent re-registrations, he was able to prove that they could have only been executed with the documents seized from our offices by the Moscow Interior Ministry.
On the back of Sergei's discoveries, in early December 2007, we filed six 255-page complaints outlining all the details of the frauds and the names of the police officers involved. The complaints were filed with the heads of the three main law enforcement agencies in Russia. However, instead of investigating, they passed the complaints straight back to the specific police officers named as conspirators. Those officers then personally initiated retaliatory criminal cases against Hermitage employees.
At this point, Sergei was becoming visibly angry. Sergei wasn't a dispassionate lawyer like many we have encountered in the past. He was our advocate in the truest sense of the word.
By the summer of 2008 it still wasn't clear why the police would be involved in such a complicated scam against us. If the intention was to steal the fund's assets in Russia, they had failed because, by the time our companies were stolen, the assets had been safely moved outside the country.
To help us find the answer, Sergei sent out more than 50 letters to different tax authorities and registration offices requesting information on our stolen companies. Almost no one replied, but on June 5, 2008, Sergei received a letter that broke the case wide open.