Switzerland’s biggest bank wants its airplanes back.
For several months, UBS Group AG has sought to reverse a Moscow court decision allowing the seizure of two Bombardier Challenger 650 jets leased to brothers Dmitry and Alexey Ananiev, the former co-owners of Promsvyazbank PJSC.
UBS faces powerful opponents: the Russian central bank, which spent 113.4 billion rubles ($1.8 billion) in 2018 to bail out Promsvyazbank, and the government, which became a shareholder of the Moscow-based lender.
Promsvyazbank took control of the aircraft — along with a dozen paintings, real estate and other assets belonging to the Ananievs — to help compensate for estimated losses of 282 billion rubles. The Ananiev brothers left the country and were charged in absentia with embezzlement after officials initiated a criminal case against them.
UBS said in court documents that it owns the jets and that the Ananievs only had use of them. A judge agreed in December to return Dmitry’s plane to the Swiss lender, but Promsvyazbank appealed, claiming that Dmitry had leased the jet through an affiliated company with the right to purchase it.
Promsvyazbank “intends to defend its position by all means provided by the law,” a representative of the bank said.
A UBS spokesman declined to comment on the legal action or the seizures.
The Ananievs lost control of Promsvyazbank in 2017 after the lender was unable to maintain provisions of more than 100 billion rubles to cover credit risks. The government later turned it into a captive bank funding the nation’s defense industry.
The takeover was part of a sweeping overhaul of Russia’s financial sector by the central bank that resulted in the shuttering of about half of the country’s non-state lenders for lack of capital and money laundering in the past six years. While the government’s attempts to cover losses of more than 2 trillion rubles have resulted in disputes with former owners, the jet seizures are the first involving a major global bank.
A lawyer for the Ananievs said the efforts were an attempt to pressure his clients and spoil the brothers’ relationship with Zurich-based UBS.
“Many people regularly use planes belonging to Aeroflot and no one seized those planes during legal actions,” the attorney, Sergei Kovalev, said in an email.
The two jets are probably worth about $32 million, according to Kirill Kim, co-founder of My Sky, a company whose software helps manage private-jet costs.