The effects of some EU and US economic sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, have ended up in the High court here arising from a bid by a Cypriot shipping firm, and related entities, to purchase vessels it currently leases from an Irish registered company that is ultimately owned by the Russian State.
Barrister Marcus Dowling, SC, told Mr Justice Mark Sanfey today that his clients claimed they were entitled to buy out the vessels in an arrangement similar to the leasing entitlements of Irish motorists to complete lease-purchase agreements by striking a lump sum deal with their finance company.
The judge heard the proceedings, coming in the middle of the legal vacation, were urgent due to the United States' Department of the Treasury having placed a deadline of early September for deals with sanctioned entities to be concluded.
An EU deadline had been set for mid-December.
Mr Dowling said that although his clients were not the subject of any international sanctions the leasing company and its related interests were.
The Cypriot firms are seeking court orders directing specific performance of their leasing contracts that would allow them complete a multi-million-euro deal to buy the ships.
Judge Sanfey, following several hours of the reading of affidavits and legal submissions, reserved judgment on what he described as an extremely complex case until the middle of next week.
The ships had been leased from GTLK Europe DAC which has a registered address in Hume Street, Dublin 2.
Mr Dowling leads a legal team on behalf of Cypriot-based Gravelor Shipping Limited and Avonburg Finance Limited and its shareholders Capstan Holdings Limited and Valbridge Limited.
It was claimed that GTLK Europe, which leases out aircraft and marine vessels, is ultimately owned by the Russian state transport authority which became the subject of international sanctions introduced following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last.
Mr Dowling told the court his clients were not the subject of any international sanctions but GTLK and its related entities were.
Under the terms of the leasing agreements his clients claimed they were entitled to purchase the vessels which were still in their possession.
Owing to frozen bank accounts they were unable to make payments to GTLK and were restrained from returning the vessels without authorisation.
Arising out of the sanctions his clients had brought claims against GTLK and a related Malta=based entity called GTLK Malta.
They could face being sanctioned themselves if they were to do any business with GTLK after the US deadline expired.
The Central Bank of Ireland, which regulates sanctions taken against Russian-linked entities in Ireland has also been listed as a defendant in the case.
But Mr Dowling told Judge Sanfey his clients were not proceeding against the bank for reliefs already sought in the proceedings.
He said the defendants in the case were not opposing sale and purchase of the vessels and prices for the ships had already been agreed.
Mr John Breslin SC who appeared for the Central Bank said since there was agreement between the parties there was no need for the court proceedings.
Questioning the appropriateness of the proceedings he said he would reserve his submissions and the bank's position to await the outcome of the application before the court.
Earlier the court had been told the Central Bank would have to approve any acquisition of any of GTLK’s assets by the Cypriot company and its entities.
McCann Fitzgerald, for the bank had stated in correspondence that they did not think the Cypriot-based entities’ actions were something that could be directed summarily by the courts.
Mr Dowling said there was nothing unusual about what were standard commercial contracts which pre-dated the imposition of international sanctions.