The English high court has issued a worldwide freezing order against the assets of Russian fresh fruit multinational, St Petersburg-based JFC Group Co. Ltd, according to a press release by reefer ship owner Star Reefers.

In August this year, the high court in London awarded Star Reefers US$16.5m (€12.6m), plus legal costs and interest, against JFC.

This followed the unlawful early redelivery of three ships and wrongful termination of charters by JFC's chartering arm Kalistad Ltd of Cyprus, reported.

JFC have not appealed the judgment and it is now final, with JFC failing to pay the judgement sum.

On 6 September 2011, the judgment debt against JFC was registered with the UK Government's Registry Trust, which is publically searchable by banks, rating agencies, lenders and creditors.

As a result of JFC's failure to pay the judgment debt and breach of other court orders, on 10 November 2011 the high court ordered JFC to disclose details of all of its worldwide assets with a value exceeding US$25,000 (€19,000) and any transactions between JFC and its associated companies.

Because of JFC's 'continuing failure to comply with court orders' and due to evidence that assets may have be transferred between offshore companies to frustrate creditors, on 16 December His Honour Judge Mackie QC issued a worldwide freezing order in the sum of US$21m against JFC's assets.

This order is to be served on JFC's Boards of management and directors and also its owner Vladimir Kekhman, with failure to comply with the Order punishable by contempt of court sanctions, including up to two years' imprisonment and/ or unlimited fines.

"It is disappointing that we have had to take such steps to enforce our rights but JFC has gone to remarkable lengths to avoid their contractual obligations," said Star Reefers chief executive Simon Stevens.

"Even more disappointing is the way JFC's owner, Mr Kekhman, seems to be endorsing JFC's irresponsible behaviour. It is important that they understand that they are not above the law."

The court order lists all of JFC's known associated companies in Cyprus, Luxembourg, Ecuador, Costa Rica and British Virgin Islands, including its direct parent company Huntleigh Investments Ltd and ultimate parent company JFC Group Holding (BVI) Ltd.

JFC's banks including Royal Bank of Scotland, Citibank, Nordea, VTB (Deutschland), Gazprombank, Raiffeisen, Sberbank, UniCredit, Amsterdam Trade Bank, Banque Societe Generale, Commerzbank, and Bank of Moscow have been notified of the court order.

Bank Saint Petersburg, which is partially owned by the state funded European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, owns and controls 20 per cent of JFC.

Star has also commenced enforcement proceedings in Cyprus, Luxembourg and the US against JFC's associated companies.