Sibir Energy presses case against former directors

London AIM-listed Sibir Energy plc, (SBE.LN), the Russian energy company listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM), has begun proceedings in the High Court against two of its former directors, Henry Cameron, former chief executive, and Chalva Tchigirinski, a property developer and one of the company’s biggest shareholders. In addition to the directors, Gradison Consultants, a company owned by Tchigirinski, and Derbent Management Limited are also named.

Trading in Sibir’s shares was suspended in February this year pending an investigation into unauthorized payments to Tchigirinski, whose investment company Bennfield owns approximately 47 per cent of Sibir.  The Financial Services Authority was told that Sibir’s share price may have been manipulated between October 16 and October 3 and that a significant number of the transactions between those dates were conducted using money that had been taken from the company.

In October last year the company controversially announced that it would buy distressed real estate assets from Tchigirinski whose property business was under severe pressure to meet margin calls. The transactions were later called off, but only after Sibir funds had already transferred part of the funds in respect of the proposed deals. In February, the company revealed that Tchigirinski owed the company around $325 million, almost three times as much as was declared to the London Stock Exchange.

The total amount claimed in respect of the share price manipulation allegations is $328 million but could rise to about $400 million. Commenting on the case, acting chief executive of Sibir, Stuard Detmer, said: “The launch of the legal proceedings announced today underlines our determination to recover on behalf of our shareholders the funds that were taken from the company. Our investigation into the events of last year is ongoing and the results will be reported as soon as is practicably possible.” adding that he expects shares to be suspended for the “foreseeable future.”

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