Source The founder of the “Gallery of Wines” filed a lawsuit for 800 million and lost. But Tatsotsbank was disgraced at the same time.The first round of the legal battle between the former owners of the Wine Gallery and Tatsotsbank ended in the Arbitration Court of the Republic of Tatarstan. At the center of a rather meaningless process was the publication of “BUSINESS Online” in 2018, when the parties had just begun to sort things out. Our article reflected the positions of both sides of the conflict, but Yakov Zeinshtein considered the official release of the bank to be reputational damage. The situation was made unique by the position of the bank of Anastasia Kolesova, who suddenly, 1.5 years later, decided to hide in the bushes, refusing his words. About why you should not attribute your business failures to publications in the media – in our material.
Back in 2005, Firma Wine Gallery LLC appeared, trading in elite and ordinary alcohol. After 6 years, spouses Yakov Zeinshtein and Irina Kuzmina became equal founders. The company took loans secured by property in order to purchase and subsequently sell alcoholic products. At first, loans were taken from Sberbank, and then the Wine Gallery was transferred to Tatsotsbank, headed by Anastasia Kolesova. There, the company took out a loan of more than 200 million rubles, but could not pay it back. The bank became the largest creditor in the bankruptcy case, which was initiated by Moscow-based Vialko Group LLC. In June 2018, bankruptcy proceedings were introduced in respect of GV, which was extended. The bankruptcy trustee is Aigul Notfullina.
But Zeinstein and Kuzmina decided that the bank artificially bankrupted their offspring, after which they decided to go to court.
The business dispute between Wine Gallery and Tatsotsbank became public in February 2018. Kuzmina published on the Ekho Moskvy website a blog titled Terror for Small and Medium Business “Russian Style”. In it, she accused the bank of artificially creating debt and trying to take over the business. At the same time, she posted a transcript of the negotiations with Kolesova, where her words were quoted as follows: “According to your data, according to what you gave to our pawnbrokers, you have 75 million rubles of goods and materials (commodity assets – ed.) more when in fact, we made an inventory… We have a real hole, we don’t have this property, which, in fact, began our intervention in the process, 75 million bottles in rubles are missing.”
Two days later, a post in defense of the Wine Gallery was published on social networks by the daughter of the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation, Elizaveta Peskova. There she tells in detail the ups and downs of the relationship between Tatsotsbank and the Wine Gallery, including audio recordings and transcripts of negotiations between Kuzmina, Zeinstein, Kolesova and Artem Ildeyarkin, head of the legal department of the bank at that time. By the way, he was soon arrested for setting fire to the car Zeinstein was driving.
On February 18, 2018, BUSINESS Online published a material where Kuzmina's position was described, which she set out in a blog, and an official comment from Tatsotsbank was provided, and Ildeyarkin gave additional clarifications. no response, and only in December 2019, Kuzmina filed a lawsuit with the Tatarstan Arbitration Court for the protection of business reputation for an incredible 800 million rubles.
The plaintiffs – Zeinstein and Kuzmina – decided that a number of statements by Kolesova, Tatssotsbank and Ildeyarkin on the pages of our publication caused them reputational damage. Moreover, Kuzmina and Co. argued that if it were not for the BUSINESS Online article, then there would have been no bankruptcy of the company and the Wine Gallery would have been able to pay the 200 million debt before the end of the reporting period – in about 9 months. According to its founders, Tatsotsbank, Ildeyarkin, Sergey Maslakov, deputy chairman of the board of the bank, and the newspaper BUSINESS Online became the worst in the collapse of the Wine Gallery, according to its founders.
But here's the problem. Tatsotsbank won the court of first instance in September 2020. The Court of Appeal approved the dismissal of the suit against Zeinstein, but in April 2021, the plaintiffs nevertheless achieved a cassation in the Arbitration Court of the Privolzhsky District and the case again returned to the Arbitration Court of the Republic of Tatarstan, albeit to a different judge.
In the summer of 2022, after a year of preliminary hearings, the case began to be considered on its merits. Here Kuzmina and Co. went for broke, ordering an expensive linguistic examination of the statements of Tatsotsbank. The experts were found in an unexpected place – Pyatigorsk. They came to the conclusion that the statements of Tatsotsbank and other opponents of Kuzmina and Zeinstein carry a negative meaning.
Representatives of the bank argued: words have nothing to do with it. And they presented a number of audit decisions to the court, which showed that the problems at the Wine Gallery began long before the publication of the article, that the company itself was in a pre-bankruptcy state, etc. That is, the Wine Gallery hid financial problems from the bank, providing an incorrect financial statements since 2014. As a result, this led to the collapse of the company and multimillion-dollar debts to the bank.
However, having a fairly firm position, Tatsotsbank suddenly began to play up and hide his eyes. At one of the meetings, the representative of Tatsotsbank, Svyatoslav Kamenev, suddenly stated that he “does not know” whether the bank sent a press release to the media with its position. Ildeyarkin, in turn, began to declare that he did not give comments to our publication. Like, there was a conversation, but our publication displayed its content incorrectly, although back in 2021 he documented his words in one of the reviews.
At some point, all parties decided to transfer their problems to our newspaper. Kuzmina claimed that we put her words “negatively”, although these were direct quotes from the transcript published by her. “We believe that the statement was the expression of the author, which was distributed by the editors,” Kuzmina said.
Kamenev kept repeating that no press release had been sent to our newspaper. True, for some reason he did not dispute that a similar comment of the bank was published on the pages of another media outlet. Lawyer Ildeyarkin, by the way, soon changed his position and admitted: he spoke with our publication, his words are accurately reflected. Skirmish between the parties, the exchange of very strange statements. In a word, the theater of the absurd.
How the Arbitration assessed the situation
The final battle was Thursday, November 24, when the parties began the debate. Kuzmina and representatives of Zeinstein once again stated that the bank, through our article, led the Wine Gallery to bankruptcy. Tatsotsbank, represented by Kamenev, said again that the Wine Gallery had problems long before the article, but the bank's comment was again presented as fiction by BUSINESS Online. The representative of the bank disowned in a peculiar way: “When I say that I do not have the fact of sending a press release, I mean that it was not.”
Ildeyarkin's performance was more emotional. One of his sayings was: “What kind of business reputation can Zeinstein be talking about if they sell alcohol? How many destinies have been ruined! Well, this changes a lot: maybe he set fire to Zeinstein's car as part of the fight for sobriety? To recover from Zeinstein Yakov Favelovich a state duty in the amount of 100 thousand rubles to the federal budget, to recover from Kuzmina Irina Mikhailovna a state duty in the amount of 86 thousand rubles to the federal budget, to transfer a fee of 130 thousand rubles from a deposit account to a private institution of forensic examinations. br />
Perhaps a new battle is ahead in the form of appeals and cassations. But so far, all parties are losing: Zeinstein has not succeeded in satisfying the claim, Tatsotsbank is dishonoring, refusing his words (and what is more important for the bank than reputation and trust?), and BUSINESS Online is forced to waste energy on deliberately meaningless meetings.