Moscow court gives green light to seizure of car dealer's property

Moscow court gives green light to seizure of car dealer's property
Sergei Petrov's dealership is one of the oldest in Russia, but it hit potholes when a criminal case was launched against Petrov and he was forced to sell it, reportedly at a knock-down price. / Image: Rolf Car Dealers.
By bne IntelliNews February 18, 2022

In the latest instalment of a protracted case against businessman Sergei Petrov, a Moscow court has fully upheld the seizure of property from his Rolf car dealership.

The Moscow Region’s Khimkinskiy Town Court ruled that RUB19bn (about $250mn) from the dealership could legally be turned into state property, reported Interfax. A lawyer for the defendant, Anatoliy Kupriyanov, said that there was no legal precedent for such a sentence, and that a new punishment had been invented especially for the case.

Rolf is one of Russia’s oldest car dealerships, set up by taxi driver Sergei Petrov in the 1990s. In an exclusive interview with bne IntelliNews, he explained how successful Rolf had been in the 1990s, when it became the first official Mitsubishi dealer in Russia, and again in the 2000s, when Russia was briefly the biggest car market in Europe.

All that changed when Petrov had criminal charges brought against him and the top management of Rolf in 2019. Accused of illegally taking RUB14bn (about $52mn) abroad, Petrov was forced to sell his dealership to rival KlychAvto for a sum rumoured to be just a third of his initial asking price. He then moved to Austria, and Russia issued a warrant for his arrest.

Petrov has been tried in absentia by the Moscow court, which found that he hadn’t been declaring his true earnings from the business while he was a member of the Duma (Russia’s lower chamber of parliament), where he was a member of systemic opposition party A Just Russia. Petrov denies the claims.

Kupriyanov reportedly said that Petrov plans to appeal against the decision at the Moscow Regional Court, but that the defendant was “amazed” by the decision.

In 2018, the amount of Russian court cases ending in a conviction was reportedly above 99%.