Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 238

Three offshore metals trading companies are suing Russian Aluminium, the metals giant formed earlier this year, for US$2.7 million for committing violence and fraud in its bid to monopolize the Russian aluminium market. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court of New York this week by Base Metal Trading SA, Base Metals Trading Ltd. and Alucoal Ltd. against Oleg Deripaska, Russian Aluminium’s CEO, and his partner Mikhail Chernoy. Chernoy was at one time, along with his brother Lev, associated with the controversial Trans World metals group. Russian Aluminium was formed earlier this year when Deripaska’s Siberian Aluminium Company joined forces with the Sibneft Oil Company, which is reportedly controlled by Roman Abramovich, the tycoon and State Duma deputy. Russian Aluminium now reportedly controls as much as 75 percent of Russia’s multibillion-dollar aluminium market. Abramovich is not named in the suit. The three companies bringing the suit previously served as middlemen for metals produced by the Novokuznetsk Aluminium Plant (NkAZ), located in Kemerovo and Russia’s fifth-largest aluminium producer, and are accusing Russian Aluminium of using illegal methods when it took over NkAZ earlier this year (Moscow Times, December 21).

The plaintiffs charge, among other things, that in 1995, at the height of a battle for control of the Krasnoyarsk Aluminium Factory, Chernoy ordered the murder of Felix Lvov. Lvov represented the interests of AIOC, the U.S. metals company and Trans World rival. Chernoy, the plaintiffs claim, used Anton Malevsky, reputedly a leader of the Izmailova organized crime group, to carry out the order. According to the suit, Chernoy and Deripaska also sought to wrest control over NkAZ away from MIKOM, a company run by Mikhail and Yuri Zhivilo. Soon after the Lvov murder, Deripaska warned that Mikhail Zhivilo would share Lvov’s fate if he refused to cooperate with Chernoy and Trans World. The suit also alleges that, in the fall of 1995, Mikhail Zhivilo was forced to meet with Chernoy in Tel Aviv to discuss “krysha” (“roof,” slang for protection payments) for the following year. Malevsky allegedly attended the meeting during which Zhivilo was warned that if he stopped making protection payments he would have to deal with Malevsky “and his partner Yaponchik”–an apparent reference to Vyacheslav Ivankov, the Russian mafia boss jailed in New York in 1996 on federal conspiracy and extortion charges. In March 1996, the suit alleges, an attack was carried out on Zhivilo, after which he received yet another warning from Chernoy. According to the complaint, Zhivilo ran into Chernoy by chance in 1998 at a soccer match in France, and Chernoy again brought up Malevsky to threaten Zhivilo into cooperating with Deripaska (Vedomosti, December 21).

A spokesman for Russian Aluminium called the lawsuit “absurd” and said he suspected it was an attempt to provoke and discredit Russian Aluminium” (Moscow Times, December 21).