Russia Turns to US in Fight for Émigré Socialite’s Fortune

WASHINGTON, December 27 (By Carl Schreck for RIA Novosti) – Russia has brought its battle with New York real estate mogul and socialite Janna Bullock to the United States, convincing a US federal court to order the glamorous émigré entrepreneur to disclose information related to a $21 million lawsuit against her in Cyprus.

Bullock, an art collector and former trustee of the world-renowned Guggenheim Museum, has been ordered by a federal judge in New York to provide information in connection with a lawsuit filed in Cyprus by Gazprombank, the lending arm of state-owned Russian energy giant Gazprom, court documents show.

The order, signed December 4 by Judge Paul Gardephe, comes amid what appears to be Gazprombank’s first foray into the US courts in its bid to recover $21 million in damages it claims to have suffered due to purported fraud by Bullock and her associates.

The bank accuses Bullock, 46, of embezzling money from Russian government-owned companies it invested in, and using the funds to purchase a $20 million yacht, an expensive London apartment and hotels in Courchevel, France, a posh ski resort popular among wealthy Russians.

The US court order is the latest in a series of legal setbacks suffered by Bullock and her ex-husband, Alexei Kuznetsov, a former Moscow Region official facing extradition from France on charges of large-scale fraud in Russia that Bullock also stands accused of.

Gazprombank secured an injunction by a Cyprus court earlier this year freezing Bullock’s worldwide assets and ordering her to disclose all of her assets in excess of 10,000 euros ($13,700) in connection with its lawsuit.

A similar asset freeze has been issued against Bullock by the British Virgin Islands, and Gazprombank lawyers say France has endorsed a global asset freeze as well, though RIA Novosti has been unable to confirm the existence of the French order.

Gazprombank accuses Bullock of failing to comply with the Cyprus injunction and believes the disclosure ordered by Judge Gardephe could reveal assets and entities she used to carry out the purported fraud, according to documents filed in US federal court.

Neither Bullock nor her attorneys could be reached for comment. But she has repeatedly denied allegations of wrongdoing and has claimed she is the victim of corporate raiders in Russia who allegedly dismantled her real estate empire there.

Bullock’s Delaware-registered company, RIGroup LLC, has also been ordered by the US federal court to provide evidence to assist the Cyprus proceedings.

Bullock, who was born in Belarus when it was a Soviet Republic, emigrated to the United States in the early 1990s, and later married Kuznetsov, a Russian banker with whom she has a daughter. She embarked on a real estate career around a decade ago, setting up companies in both the United States and Russia and splitting time between the two countries.

Bullock made her name buying, refurbishing and reselling multimillion-dollar homes in New York City, while at the same time conducting lucrative business with government-owned companies that Kuznetsov oversaw and was instrumental in capitalizing with public funds.

Both Kuznetsov and Bullock left Russia in 2008 after Russian authorities announced a probe into whether companies tied to RIGroup illegally obtained real estate in the Moscow Region, home to some of the country’s priciest real estate. Bullock told The New York Times in 2010 that at one point her company was worth $2 billion.

Bullock filed a US lawsuit against former Russian associates and entities she accuses of looting her assets, including a key witness and a co-plaintiff in the Cyprus lawsuit.

A US federal judge dismissed the lawsuit earlier this year, saying the United States is not a proper forum for the action, but Bullock’s lawyers have appealed.

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