Luxembourg-based ABH Holdings S.A., a shareholder in Russia's Alfa Bank and owned by Russians Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, has filed a lawsuit against Ukraine over the nationalization of Sense Bank (formerly Alfa-Bank), according to a statement from the holding company.
ABH Holdings intends to claim more than $1 billion from Ukraine.
On December 29, the holding filed a request for arbitration and a lawsuit against Ukraine with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which is part of the World Bank Group.
The legal basis for the claim is the Agreement between the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union and the Government of Ukraine on the mutual promotion and protection of investments.
ABH Holdings S.A. describes Ukraine's actions in nationalizing Sense Bank as "arbitrary, disproportionate, and discriminatory".
The holding company's statement accuses the Ukrainian government of illegally taking the bank from its legitimate owners, beneficiaries, and shareholders by combining methods of corporate raiding and military appropriation.
Fridman's holding calls the case "a critical test of the rule of law in the West. ABH Holdings views all of the Ukrainian government's charges against Fridman and other shareholders as "black PR," suggesting that Ukraine is using them to take the bank from its rightful owners.
Fridman and Aven were sanctioned by the European Union within days of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Their partners in LetterOne and Alfa Group, German Khan and Alexey Kuzmichev, were sanctioned in March 2022. The United Kingdom added all four individuals to its sanctions list at the time. Despite legal challenges in court, all four have been unsuccessful in overturning the sanctions.
Sense Bank, founded in 1992 and operating as Alfa-Bank since 2001, changed its name in 2022 due to the start of the full-scale invasion. It was nationalized by the Ukrainian government in July 2023.