oligarch lawyers

How it looked, except the lawyers weren't there and they probably weren't smiling.

Lawyers at CMS, Carter Ruck and Harbottle & Lewis have been named and shamed in parliament by an MP who accused them of "amoral" work for oligarchs.

Bob Seely, the Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, named John Kelly from Harbottle & Lewis, Nigel Tait from Carter Ruck, Hugh Tomlinson QC from Matrix Chambers and Geraldine Proudler from CMS in a speech alleging that "oligarchs, Putin’s henchmen", were "teaming up with amoral lawyers".

Some of the defamation and media law specialists he named were involved in claims made against publisher HarperCollins and Catherine Belton, author of Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West.

Kelly represented Roman Abramovich when the billionaire successfully sued over claims that he purchased Chelsea Football Club at Putin’s behest, while Hugh Tomlinson QC represented oligarch Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, the head of Russian lender Alfa-Bank.

Tait, who is Carter Ruck's Managing Partner and the head of its Defamation Media Law practice, acted for Russian oil company Rosneft. Tait is an expert at 'reputation management', and his profile on Carter Ruck's website boasts that he has "acted for many clients who were to be featured on TV news documentaries like Panorama and Dispatches, securing either their complete removal from the programme or the removal of defamatory allegations".

Proudler was instructed on a separate matter while she was at media specialist Olswang, which later became part of CMS. The defamation lawyer acted for Major Pavel Karpov, a former policeman in Putin's Ministry of the Interior, when he sued activist Bill Browder for libel over the businessman's campaign to hold accountable those responsible for the murder in prison of whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. 

“You have got to wonder about the reputations these people are going to end up with in a few years' time", said Seely, who used parliamentary privilege to name and shame the quartet, free from the risk of getting sued for libel himself.

"Maybe they are really lovely people. But maybe their amorality is really going to begin to bite their reputations in a way that will be uncomfortable", he said.

Seely accused law firms of offering "a form of legalised intimidation" to silence their rivals and journalists.

"How on earth have we allowed this to happen?" he asked. "A free press should be intimidating kleptocrats and criminals. Why have we got to the position in our society, a free society, where we have kleptocrats and criminals and oligarchs intimidating a free media?"

It might have something to do with the leader of Seely’s party inviting oligarchs in 2012 to use London’s lawyers to undertake their litigation, but sadly Boris Johnson was not around to interject.  

"People have the right to advice and legal representation but they are abusing it very, very badly in our society at the moment", said Seely.

Tait told RollOnFriday, "We are not working for any Russian individuals or companies seeking to challenge, overturn, frustrate or minimise sanctions and nor will we do so".

"We add that we have never acted for Russian individuals or companies seeking to challenge sanctions, nor do we act in the manner alleged by Mr Seely". Although Carter Ruck did act for Rosneft in proceedings for libel, "these were concluded last year, well before the invasion of Ukraine, which we obviously deplore", said Tait.

CMS and Harbottle & Lewis did not respond to a request for comment. But that's ok. It was great to hear from Carter Ruck twice in one month (although the first time was to cajole and threaten us not to run a story (which we ran anyway).)

Tip Off ROF


Poodlesaredelicious 04 March 22 07:44

If Seeley actually had any balls he’d repeat his statement outside of parliament and face the lawsuits that would inevitably follow. 

Calm heads please 04 March 22 07:52

Putin is indeed a monster and is causing so much misery. But I struggle with the idea that we have the right to seize the assets of anyone who may be his friend or have been supportive of him (or maybe not - but for their own safety and that of their families they cannot shout they disagree with him or the the war), just because they are also Russian. And not every Russian who is rich has become so through corruption. There needs to be proper and due process. 

Tony Blair started an unjust war. Should we seize the assets of his mates?

Anon 04 March 22 08:10

Calm heads please - the point you don’t understand is that these oligarchs fund the regime hence they are part of it.  

Cards 04 March 22 08:13

Am I imagining it, or was Harbottle & Lewis the name of a firm used on greetings cards in the late 90s/ early 00's, with a scruffy blue bear?

Properly schmaltzy things they were. I'm sure that's right. Was the firm set up and/ or renamed to capitalise on the greeting card addict market? 

Andy the S 04 March 22 08:34

"Tony Blair started an unjust war. Should we seize the assets of his mates?"

Yes, why not?

Anonymous 04 March 22 08:38

@Calm heads please 04 March 22 07:52

How can you become rich in one of the world's worst cleptocracies unless you join in the corruption? People who challenge the oligarchy seem to come to a brutal end.

Hmm 04 March 22 09:16

It all sounds a bit racist to me. Some posters seem to be saying if you are Russian and rich, you are corrupt. 

Gannicus 04 March 22 09:38

Ah yes, Bob Seeley - who has consistently voted AGAINST green energy and reductions to fossil fuel reliance measures now has a problem with the law firms who facilitate the purchase of fossil fuel energy. 

Whatever next? Tories objecting to grift and corruption?

Anon 04 March 22 09:42

We live in a democracy, with a free press and the rule of law. Everyone must have access to legal representation and justice. 

Oh, except for the people that Bob Seely doesn't like. They don't count. 

And let's add in some expropriation of private property by executive order. 

I don't like Russian oligarchs either, but I'm not sure I like where all of this is going. 

Take a breath 04 March 22 10:32

Not all Russian money in London is shady. Just like not all Ukrainian money in London is pure.

There must be no witch hunts or denying anyone legal representation. Despite what the press say, whilst some of the oligarchs are friendly with Putin and have benefited from his policies, this does not apply to all of them. Some of them have been murdered by him and many have been extorted by him and the regime, including through expropriation of assets. It is partly fear of him that has pushed some of them out of Russia. There are many that have been vocal in their opposition to him long before Ukraine was invaded. Neither do they have much (if any) influence over him or the military. That is a myth. The idea that they could stop the war is ludicrous. We should not allow our frustration with Putin and his regime to attack and demonise whole groups of people just based upon their nationality and because we can access their assets most easily. Can’t you see what is happening and where this could lead? There is due process, rule of law, right to be heard and represented ,property rights, presumptions of innocence. That is what makes us different to Putin. 

Envy 04 March 22 10:39

I am seeing quite a nasty and primeval response from many people who I previously considered were liberal. Attacking wealthy Russians en masse and denying  them proper process might make us feel better but does not help Ukraine at all. We say our beef is not with Russia but only with Putin but we are now talking about punishing all (rich) Russians in London. I have some Russian friends and they are horrified at the invasion but they say the west needs to understand that they are powerless to stop it and cannot speak out for fear of consequences. 

Threeepwood 04 March 22 12:18

Attacking wealthy Russians en masse and denying  them proper process might make us feel better but does not help Ukraine at all

It’s probably the most effective way of getting rid of Putin tbf. 


Let it Malinger 04 March 22 12:25

@Andy the S 04

*the UK government “started a war”, after a vote by MPs, elected to office via free and fair elections… 

BST2018 04 March 22 13:26

The problem hasn't been so much the firms and lawyers as an outrageously anti free speech system of defamation laws in place in England, Wales and NI which are far tighter than pretty much anywhere else on the planet and which have been abused for decades.

The system is rotten, not excusing the people making money from it entirely, but our defamation laws and allowing people from outside and often with no connection to the jurisdiction to engage in libel tourism is the real problem.

Anonymous 04 March 22 15:17

"Tony Blair started an unjust war. Should we seize the assets of his mates?"

What a cracking idea!

Between Tone's mates and the oligarchs (some crossover I'll wager) we can have the national debt sorted by financial year end.


Get on the blower to Rishi and get him working on this. Stat.

Untitled Small Square Deck 10 March 22 15:01

Money talks,..and law firms are there to make money. It's financial secrecy that muddies the waters between right and wrong.

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