Odessa grain terminal owners subject to $118m worldwide freezing order following UK court ruling

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Aleksandr Mokshyn
© GettyImages/Aleksandr Mokshyn

Related tags grain terminal Ukraine Black Sea

The English High Court has granted a worldwide freezing order against Sergiy Groza and Volodymyr Naumenko, the owners of GNT Group and Olimpex Coupe International, a grain terminal in Odessa, Ukraine; the order was issued on behalf of GNT Group creditors, Innovatus Capital Partners, and Argentem Creek Partners (ACP).

Those two US investment companies, in a statement, alleged that despite their continued support for the GNT Group, including the offer to postpone loan payments following Russia’s invasion, their investigations showed that the GNT Group liquidated all grain pledged to Innovatus without notice or consent.

Grain leaving Odessa’s port has become a critical aspect of negotiations between Ukraine, Russia, and world leaders due to its significance for global food security. The Black Sea Grain Initiative extension, which enabled the partial resumption of Ukrainian grain exports, highlights the importance of ensuring terminals in the region operate efficiently, transparently and with integrity, according to a joint statement from the American investors.

Investigations show that all grain pledged to Innovatus has been fraudulently liquidated by the owners of GNT Group. Innovatus therefore had no choice but to pursue a worldwide freezing order to prevent further dissipation of assets by Naumenko and Groza,” ​maintains Ana Firmato, managing director at Innovatus.

“The strategic importance of grain leaving Odessa’s port for global food security is clear to all supporters of Ukraine. Innovatus remain steadfast in our continued commitment to invest in Ukraine and support its economy,”​ she added.

Also commenting on the ruling was John Patton, portfolio manager, EMEA & Asia at ACP, who claimed: “ACP and Innovatus have joined forces because of material failings of transparency and governance, and suspected large-scale asset dissipation and corporate wrongdoing​. Since enforcement actions have begun, we have identified the transfer of members of the GNT Group which own silos to an entity in Switzerland which we understand is controlled by GNT Group’s chief financial officer, Dusan Denic.

“Once GNT Group relinquishes control of the port to responsible operators, these issues will be resolved with minimal disruption to the grain corridor. We are determined to continue our broader commitment to invest in Ukraine.”

Innovatus and ACP have a long-standing history of investing in Ukraine, and both companies said they remain committed to ensuring that this grain terminal is managed correctly within Ukrainian and international guidelines.

The GNT Group, in late December, denied​ the allegations made by the creditors:

"In November 2019, the management company GNT Group attracted two credit lines from Argentem Creek Partners in the amount of USD 25 million and USD 50 million. In fact, all these funds were directed to the repayment of the EBRD loan and the purchase of a 26% stake of CHS Europe S.a.r.l. in the grain terminal Olimpex Coupe International. In its statement, the Argentem Creek Partners fund said that it suspected GNT Group of abusing the loan funds. But the loan agreement was concluded in such a way that all loan funds had a purely targeted purpose, and any misuse of them was impossible."​ 

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