June 12, 2018 / 9:17 PM / 10 days ago

Russian tycoon's suit against Manafort on hold as U.S. sanctions bite

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Russian oligarch on Monday got a court to delay his fraud lawsuit against U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, citing the need to deal more pressing legal matters such as U.S. sanctions on his businesses and criminal trials facing Manafort.

FILE PHOTO: President Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort departs U.S. District Court after a motions hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., May 4, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Justice O. Peter Sherwood of New York state Supreme Court in Manhattan signed an order in which all parties agreed to stay the proceedings until Manafort’s trials are complete, “whether by verdict, mistrial or plea”, a court filing showed.

The lawsuit at issue was by a Cyprus company controlled by Oleg Deripaska against Manafort and his aide Rick Gates in January, accusing them of misappropriating more than $18.9 million earmarked for deals in Ukraine in 2008. Deripaska had made similar legal complaints against Manafort and Gates in the Cayman Islands in 2014 and in Virginia in 2015.

James Altman, lawyer for Deripaska’s Cyprus company, Surf Horizon Limited, sent a letter last week to Sherwood on behalf of all parties arguing the case should be put on hold for five months, citing, among other things, U.S. sanctions against Deripaska and Manafort’s need to focus on his criminal trials.

Altman wrote that his client “needs time to work out certain issues regarding its prosecution of its claims in this Lawsuit resulting from the imposition of those sanctions.”

The move to delay the lawsuit illustrates the wide impact of sanctions that Washington imposed in April on Deripaska and eight companies in which he is a large shareholder, including aluminium producer Rusal and its parent En+.

In total, the U.S. sanctions are on seven Russian oligarchs, 12 companies they own or control, as well as 17 senior Russian government officials because, it said, they were profiting from a Russian state engaged in “malign activities” around the world.

Rusal’s exports and finances will take another hit if Deripaska is unable to persuade Washington to lift sanctions by late August, three industry sources told Reuters last week.

Manafort is preparing to go to trial to fight two criminal cases against him in Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, which arose from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into any links between Russia and Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

In the letter Altman wrote that Manafort needed time to focus on those two criminal cases, which are set to go to trial in July and September. He also noted that Gates, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with Mueller’s probe, recently retained a lawyer for the Deripaska case.

Manafort is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday following a third superseding indictment against him by Mueller that lodged additional charges on accusations of witness tampering.

reporting by Nathan Layne in New York; Editing by David Gregorio

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