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Amsterdam court upholds $5.2bn asset freeze judgment on Kazakhstan oil field

EBR Staff Writer Published 09 January 2018

The Amsterdam District Court upheld its earlier judgment of putting a freeze on $5.2bn worth assets of Kazakhstan through its stake in KMG Kashagan held through sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna.

The Kazakh State is involved in the Kashagan offshore oil field in a consortium with international companies like Eni, Shell, Total, ExxonMobil, Inpex and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

The case is part of a long legal battle between Moldovan investors Anatolie Stati, his son Gabriel Stati, their companies Ascom Group and Terra Raf Trans Traiding (collectively, Stati Parties) and the Kazakh government.

The Stati Parties had alleged that they were harassed by the Kazakh government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev to sell their investments in oil fields in the country below fair price in 2010, Reuters reported.

Refusing to bow down to the government’s pressure of selling them the assets, the Stati partners managed to strike a deal with an alternative buyer, reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

However, they claimed that the deal could not move ahead following the seizure and nationalization of its petroleum operations in 2010 by the Kazakh government.

In 2013, Stati Parties prevailed in an international arbitration against the Kazakh government which was ordered by a Swedish court to pay them $500m. Denying the allegations on it, the Kazakh government declined to pay the amount, leading to lawsuits against it from the Stati Parties.

In its judgment, the Dutch court held that, despite Samruk being a separate legal entity from Kazakhstan, "the corporate objective of Samruk is … completely subordinated to Kazakhstan's national interest, as this is established at the political level, that Kazakhstan is and will remain the sole shareholder, and that Samruk's board is controlled by (those politically responsible in) Kazakhstan."

The court concluded: “Samruk lacks de facto-economic independence in its relation to Kazakhstan, in the sense that Samruk cannot invoke its separate legal personality against Kazakhstan in order to pursue a policy of its own that deviates from the policy of (those politically responsible in) Kazakhstan… it has to be assumed that Samruk has been established by Kazakhstan (at least partially) with a view to shield Kazakhstan's assets from Kazakhstan's creditors.”