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20 Mar, 2008 16:53

Pay up! German court seizes Russian property in lieu of debt

The Supreme Land Court of Cologne has ordered the auction of the premises of the former Soviet Trade office there to cover a debt claimed by a German businessman. Franz Sedelmaier says Russia owes him five million euros in compensation for losses he suffe

The decision is unprecedented, and lawyers say it may boost the number of law suits against Russia.

A spokesman for the Supreme Land Court, Hubertus Nolte, said the property can now be sold.

“The Russian Federation is still registered as the owner of the property in the German land register. The property can now be auctioned at the request of Sedelmaier,” Nolte said.  

Sedelmaier launched law proceedings against Russia 13 years ago.

In the early 90s he set up a joint venture with the Russian government to supply police forces with special body armour.

Russia helped pay for land and a 25-year lease on a house in St Petersburg that Sedelmaier renovated.  

When the rent agreement was cancelled and the property confiscated three years later, the German businessman claimed compensation, which he now estimates at around five million euros.

Meanwhile, representatives of the Russian government say they have not received any official notification of the court’s decision and point out it is not the first time that Sedelmaier has tried to get money from Russia but so far without success.