Prigozhin tried to sue Bellingcat for “libel”, but the lawyers dropped his case due to reputational risks.
London law firms began refusing to cooperate with Russian businessmen and companies. According to a Bloomberg article, the denials are associated with possible risks for lawyers under sanctions imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Over the past 10 years, Russian businessmen have preferred to turn to the courts of London to resolve a variety of legal issues, from divorce proceedings and libel cases to international disputes. So, according to the material, in 2017-2021, Russia was one of the most active countries in the courts of London, and the Russians ranked second after the British in the number of cases in the courts of London. arbitration.
After the outbreak of war, leading London law firms Allen & Overy, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Clifford Chance decided to suspend or close their offices in Moscow.
Several of the most prominent British lawyers working with Russian billionaires have faced the prospect of US sanctions. British authorities have warned that they may ban local lawyers from offering their services in Russia.
In addition, writes Bloomberg, procedural and other restrictions complicate cases involving the Russian side, and lawyers can only be paid for their services with the approval of the country’s government. But even with a special license to work with Russians, many banks refuse to process payments, one of the lawyers at the international firm Sidley Austin told the agency.
However, the agency notes that this does not prevent law firms from applying for the appropriate permits. According to Bloomberg, their main motivation is the generosity of fees.
As a key example, Bloomberg cites Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin’s lawsuit against Bellingcat’s proposed libel investigation, which a London court dismissed in May. The process collapsed after Discreet Law lawyers, who represented Prigozhin’s interests, refused to participate in the case due to reputational risks.
In a statement, the company noted that it is “objectively impossible to find another agent for this process.” According to Bloomberg, an unnamed British law firm told its staff that “there would be nothing left of our firm if they accepted the case”.
According to Bloomberg, the reduction in the number of cases involving the Russian side is damaging the London courts and the British economy. The legal sector generated £5.6 billion in revenue in 2020, according to research by City UK, a human rights organisation. In turn, the share of international disputes amounted to 74% of all cases heard by UK arbitration tribunals in 2020-21.