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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Romanov Takes Over Kristall Distillery

Trailed by riot police and a court bailiff, the man ruled the rightful director of Moscow?s Kristall vodka distillery took control of the plant?s head office and said the long ownership dispute had ended.

Alexander Romanov took over the office of the factory from his rival Vladimir Svirsky on Tuesday night.

"I consider the conflict resolved," Romanov said. "The activities of the previous management will be assessed by the competent bodies."

The dispute began in May when Kristall?s board of directors elected Romanov general director. Some board members objected, and a Moscow court ruled in July that the appointment was invalid, naming Svirsky acting director.

Before the court ruling, Romanov only controlled Kristall?s operational management. All production and 90 percent of sales were controlled by Svirsky.

But Romanov and his guards occupied the production line in August, while Svirsky was camped out in the head office. The court finally reversed itself Sept. 29, ruling that Romanov was, in fact, the rightful director.

Romanov claims that the previous management ? for which Svirsky served as chief accountant ? drove Kristall to the edge of bankruptcy. He said investigators were checking whether there had been criminal activity at Kristall.

Svirsky denied the accusations and rejected the latest court ruling, calling Romanov?s move "outrageous."

"This is a threat not only to the factory, but to the government."
Svirsky's lawyer

Romanov was in a hurry to take control over the territory of the factory prior to the meeting of Kristall?s shareholders scheduled for Monday, Svirsky said. The plan for the meeting was to replace the representative of the Moscow government with the representative of federal departments on the board of directors, he added.

The state owns 51 percent of Kristall?s shares, which are being transferred to newly registered state company Rosspirtprom, where all state-owned stakes in alcohol-producing enterprises are to be held. The remaining 49 percent of the shares in the factory belong to private companies, which include Soyuzplodimport, Tekhnogres and an off-shore company incorporated in Cyprus, as well as Kristall employees.

"This is a direct threat not only to the factory, but to the government," Svirsky?s lawyer, Yakov Mastinsky, told reporters. Mastinsky accused Romanov?s guards of blocking everything from going in or out of the distillery, including finished vodka, and said production was grinding to a halt.

Kristall is one of Russia?s approximately 180 vodka distilleries, and among the most famous. It makes the Stolichnaya brand, which is exported around the world, along with other, cheaper liquors that sell for the ruble equivalent of less than $2 a bottle.

The conflict was only one of several recent incidents in which rival groups tried to settle ownership disputes with force. In September, armed men raided a chemical plant in the Ural Mountains to try to settle a dispute over who should run the enterprise.

(AP, Vedomosti)