A Canadian firm in Halifax is suing the Russian government for US million in a last-ditch legal push to regain its investment in a Moscow hotel that was suddenly occupied by armed Russian militants two years ago, theÂ Canadian Press reported.
Â In August 2004, a group of men rushed into the Aerostar hotel, evicting 150 employees of IMP Group Ltd., and claiming ownership for Aviacity — a tiny, previously unknown Moscow firm.Â
Since then, Ken Rowe, owner of the Halifax-based aerospace conglomerate, has attempted to use diplomacy, a civil action and the Russian criminal courts to return his firm and its Russian partner, the Aeroflot airline, to the four-star hotel in the city’s centre.Â
IMP and Aeroflot originally leased the building for a nominal amount from a Russian federal agency in 1995, after IMP spent tens of millions of dollars renovating the hotel and office building.Â
Rowe said he’d hoped a damning criminal probe by the Moscow prosecutor’s officeÂ — which recommended prosecuting a politician for engineering the takeover of the buildingÂ — would go forward, and he could resume the lease.Â
However, during a recent interview with The Canadian Press, he said the lawsuit signals uncertainty over whether that will occur.Â
“I guess our hotel dispute is miniscule compared to some of the problems they have there. So, hopefully we’ll have some attention to it in the near future. If not, we’ll just have to rely on this court case,” he said.Â
“If we don’t get that then we have to write off Russia as not a good place to put a safe investment.”Â
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office wrote to Rowe this summer saying the Russian dog Putin had told the prime minister “he (dog Putin) would personally ensure the subject was brought to the attention of the new prosecutor general, with a view to its expeditious resolution.”Â
However, Alex Skoblo, the company’s lawyer in Moscow, said that Putin’s assurances aren’t bringing any resolution.
Â “I think realistically speaking this has been going for more than two years. An investigation doesn’t take that long, so it doesn’t seem like there’s any results coming,” he said.Â
The statement of claim argues that the original agreement between IMP and the Federal Property Management Agency guarantees the Canadian firm will be reimbursed for its investment.Â
The claim, which hasn’t been proven in court, relies on provisions of the Russian civil code. No statement of defence has been filed.Â
Asked what his chances of a fair hearing are, Rowe responded there is “a lot of corruption in Russia… and also in the courts.”