The Supreme Court will study the case with the London trace on the deprivation of a bankrupt businessman of his only home
October, 08 2021

The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation accepted for consideration the dispute on the eviction of the bankrupt former co-owner of the Generation industrial group Valery Laptev from a house with an area of 600 square meters. m, which, after a scam with a London apartment, formally has the status of the only inviolable home. This is not the first case of overcoming property immunity for a single dwelling - the Supreme Court, using the permission of the Constitutional Court (CC), begins to form law enforcement practice in a situation where other government agencies ignore the problem of luxury housing of wealthy bankrupts. Property immunity of a single dwelling is established by Article 446 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation. According to this rule, debtor citizens have the right to keep it in property, except for the mortgage. This immunity is not unlimited: back in 2012, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation declared that not every single dwelling should be preserved and obliged the legislator to develop parameters for the so-called "luxury" housing, which could be sold for debts, and the former owners should buy more modest one. In April 2021, without waiting for legislative changes, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation decided that the courts (depending on the circumstances of the case, the presence or absence of abuse) should decide whether to keep the only housing for the debtor or not. Now this approach of the Supreme Court will have to be applied in the insolvency case of Laptev, who was declared bankrupt by the courts in November 2017. At that time, his debt associated with the group's obligations reached almost 5.75 billion rubles, follows from the report of the financial manager published on Fedresurse (the Unified Federal Register of Bankruptcy Information, EFRSB). Sberbank and VTB were among the creditors. Problems in the business "Generation" appeared in 2016. For example, the revenue of a member of the Dzerzhinskkhimmash group fell by half compared to 2015, to 973 million rubles, there was a net loss of 285.6 million rubles (for the previous year - 35.58 million rubles of net profit). The revenue of the Bulanash Machine-Building Plant in 2016 decreased by a quarter, to 109.76 million rubles, the enterprise became unprofitable, according to the data of the analytical system "SPARK-Interfax". In the fall of 2016, Laptev, after 24 years of marriage, divorced Olga Stepanenko, who has an indefinite residence permit in the UK, and less than a year later, two months before declaring himself bankrupt, he transferred ownership of an apartment in London worth £ 1.04 million to her. After that, the only residence of Laptev was a house with an area of 600 sq. m on a land plot of 56 acres near Yekaterinburg. The creditors returned the London apartment to the bankruptcy estate in the summer of 2019 - the transaction was invalidated, the case materials show. And in January 2020, they took care of the house - they decided at the meeting to include it together with the land in the bankruptcy estate, and in exchange for Laptev to provide an apartment with a total area of at least 30 sq. m. in a house built no earlier than 1964. Stepanenko and Laptev objected. They pointed out that for Laptev the house was the only home, and Stepanenko had the right to half of it as his ex-wife. In addition, since now she has no real estate in the UK, then if she is forced to return to Russia, and for her the house will be the only place to live. The court of first instance upheld the creditors and considered that the house and the plot should be in the bankruptcy estate. This decision was made taking into account the deal with the London apartment: the court found that Laptev and Stepanenko behaved in bad faith, trying to withdraw liquid assets from the bankruptcy estate. However, the appeal and cassation canceled that decision and Laptev retained the right to the house. The courts were guided by the previous approach, which prohibits, due to the lack of legislative norms, to take away even "luxurious" housing from bankrupts, if it is the only one. Now one of Laptev's creditors, VTB, insists on canceling the decisions of the appeal and cassation in the Supreme Court. The bank indicates that Stepanenko's Russian citizenship has been terminated, she lives with her children in the UK, and the controversial house belongs to the category of luxury. The financial manager, in turn, in his response to the bank's complaint, refers to the resolution of the Constitutional Court of April 2021, which allows the possibility of foreclosure on the debtor's only housing. Judge of the Supreme Court Yekaterina Kornelyuk considered these arguments sufficient to transfer the complaint to the panel of judges for economic disputes of the Supreme Court for consideration. The meeting is scheduled for 23 August. Group Corporation "Generation" was a large-scale Russian and CIS manufacturer and supplier of equipment for the oil and gas industry and thermal energy. Consolidated figures were not disclosed.


Maxim Prokopiev
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