Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Owners Steamed In War for Smelter

Corporate mudslinging hit Russia's aluminum industry Wednesday as shareholders accused each other of dirty dealings in a Wall Street-style battle for control over the world's largest aluminum smelter.

The largest Russian shareholder in the Bratsk smelter in Siberia, a Moscow-based brokerage called Your Financial Trustee, told a news conference it was waging a campaign against London-based metals trader Trans-World Group, owner of more than 50 percent of the smelter.

At stake are the billions of dollars earned from Bratsk's aluminum exports on world markets.

Vasily Boiko, general director of Your Financial Trustee, said Trans-World was trying to take over the entire Russian aluminum industry. "Trans-World and the companies it represents are violating the law in the coarsest way," he said. "They think they can spit on Russia."

Trans-World chairman David Ruben, in a telephone interview from London, said the mudslinging was an old-fashioned corporate fight in a country still learning market-economy ways. "There's a tussle over representation on the board, like anywhere else in the world," Ruben said.

Your Financial Trustee owns more than 20 percent of Bratsk, in south central Siberia. Trans-World owns over 50 percent outright, while Russian and foreign firms with which it works own another 20 percent or so.

Boiko complained that Your Financial Trustee had not been awarded seats on Bratsk's 11-member board at the annual shareholders meeting in June, had not been given copies of Bratsk's new charter and had been left in the dark about the smelter's financial condition.

He said the Irkutsk regional court had ruled that Bratsk's current board was illegal and had no right to conduct the smelter's business. He said Trans-World was threatening Russia's national security by controlling large stakes in Bratsk and other top smelters.

A Bratsk lawyer who made a surprise appearance at Wednesday's news conference told reporters the Irkutsk court had later ruled there were no irregularities with Bratsk's board.

"The same court later ruled there were no violations. What else can I say?" said lawyer Vladimir Uralsky.

He said Your Financial Trustee was secretly acting on behalf of Ukraine's Nikolayevsky alumina factory, which wanted to do tolling operations -- manufacturing aluminum products on behalf of an outside contractor -- at Bratsk, but Boiko said he was only a financial consultant to the factory.