Russian Billionaire Sued in Fight Over Fish With Former Partner

(Bloomberg) -- Two Russian businessmen are fighting over a stake in a fishing company that made Vitaly Orlov a billionaire.

Alexander Tugushev is suing Orlov, a one-time friend and associate, in London for a third of Norebo Holding JSC.

Orlov took control of Norebo in 2016 after building a fortune from 25 years working in the fishing industry. The business is now benefiting from sanctions that limit food imports to Russia.

Tugushev’s lawyers said in court documents for a hearing this week that he “has been the victim of a complex and sophisticated conspiracy” by Orlov and another co-founder of the business to deny his investment in the company. Orlov’s lawyers said that the judge should be aware that Tugushev had been convicted of fraud.

Tugushev was sentenced to six years in prison for fraud in Russia in 2004. Richard Slade, a lawyer for Tugushev, said in court that the case had been politically motivated. Tugushev re-joined Norebo after serving his prison sentence.

Tugushev was later fired because he was “complicating” the company’s growth, Orlov said in 2017.

A London judge granted an order freezing $350 million of Orlov’s assets on July 23. Orlov didn’t seek to overturn the injunction, but his lawyers asked that some information about the assets only be given to Tugushev’s lawyers and not Tugushev himself.

The two businessmen graduated from the same Murmansk engineering school and Tugushev later became deputy head of the Russian government body that oversaw the fishing industry. He entered into business with Orlov in 1997.

Paul Sinclair, Orlov’s lawyer, said in court that it was unclear who was funding Tugushev’s lawsuit.

“At the back of all of this there is a mysterious funder,” he said. “We don’t know who he is.”

A spokesperson for Tugushev said that an independent third party is funding the case. “Vitaly Orlov should be held to account for his actions,” the spokesperson said. A lawyer for Orlov declined to comment.

The case is Tugushev v. Vitaly Orlov and others, High Court of Justice, Case No. CL-2018-000498.

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