Legal battle for Odessa port assets about to become a matter of state
GNT creditors Innovatus Capital Partners and Argentem Creek Partners investment funds, specializing in risky assets, have put their focus on the fight against corruption, which is the current focus of President Volodymyr Zelensky's government.
Argentem Creek Partners, a US fund, is launching an intensive lobbying effort in Kiev to acquire control of Odessa port grain stevedore GNT Group, with both sides in the conflict claiming to be combating corruption.
Sergiy Groza and Volodymyr Naumenko, owners of Odessa-based grain handling enterprise GNT Group, are under increasing pressure to sell their company to their American creditors.
GNT is one of a tiny number of operators taking part in the UN-backed Black Sea grain project - or "grain corridor" - against the backdrop of Russia's grain war, and its probable transfer to private American hands has now taken on a political dimension.
GNT creditors Innovatus Capital Partners and Argentem Creek Partners investment funds, which specialize in risky assets, have put their focus on the fight against corruption, which is the current focus of President Volodymyr Zelensky's government.
Argentem, backed in Kiev by Hillmont Partners, a legal lobbying company with close links to Ukraine's president, has informed Ukrainian authorities that the wife of deputy infrastructure minister Yuri Vaskov formerly worked for GNT.
Assets corrupt, in need of "polishing"
The fund seeks to persuade the White House to list the grain company's assets as corrupt and in need of "polishing."
Hillmont was co-founded by James Hart, a Briton who now consults for the London-based business intelligence firm Quintel Intelligence. Studio Kvartal 95, the Ukrainian president's television production business, has long used the firm's services.
Denys Monastyrskiy, a lawyer and member of parliament who became Zelensky's interior minister and died in a helicopter accident in January, was one of that company's consultants.
Since November, the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has been defending Argentem in the litigation in the US.
Sources told Intelligence Online that the lobbying team is making strategic use of American diplomatic and paradiplomatic channels in Kiev, specifically requesting that the message be delivered to the Zelensky team by the staff of US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A. Brink and the American Chamber of Commerce.
Kiev, which is desperately relying on Washington for military aid, must be mindful of its wishes.
Argentem has filed legal procedures against GNT in Ukraine, as well as in the London Court of International Arbitration, in Cyprus, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates, and has obtained a preliminary worldwide freezing order from the London Court of International Arbitration.
However, Nicosia denied its attempt to freeze assets in July. Given the uncertainty surrounding the resolution of these issues, the fund is looking for a political decision from Kiev.
Meanwhile, in June, GNT released a document on its website accusing AmCham of breaking Ukrainian anti-corruption legislation by backing Argentem's campaign and excluding them from negotiations.