Mykola Si­utkin: 'Iron­man' urges busi­nesses to fight for rights

Kyiv Post Legal Quarterly - - Contents - By Aly­ona Zhuk zhuk@kyiv­

Yes, Ukrainian state bod­ies are in­volved in cor­po­rate raid­ing.

Yes, Ukrainian leg­is­la­tion has short­com­ings and loop­holes that give law en­force­ment too many op­por­tu­ni­ties to harass busi­nesses.

How­ever, if busi­nesses are ready to de­fend them­selves, they can fight and win, says Mykola Si­utkin, CEO and founder at S&P In­vest­ment Risks Man­age­ment Agency.

“The sys­tem will spit out those who are hard to chew,” he says. “If busi­ness starts de­fend­ing it­self within the cur­rent le­gal frame­work, and is ready to fight for as long as it takes, the sys­tem will change.”

How­ever, less than 1 per­cent of the big com­pa­nies in Ukraine are ready to fight for their rights, Si­utkin says. “Many of them are so scared that they can’t even imag­ine that they can ask for a le­gal de­fense,” he says.

Si­utkin, 43, launched his law firm 10 years ago. In the early 2000s, “busi­ness started want­ing fast so­lu­tions,” he re­calls.

In­stead of trans­par­ent le­gal pro­ce­dures, many pre­ferred to strike a back-room deal. Peo­ple close to politi­cians, pros­e­cu­tors, judges or other of­fi­cials solved prob­lems ex­tra­ju­di­cially for spe­cial fees — or bribes, by an­other name.

“Peo­ple wanted ev­ery­thing to hap­pen to­mor­row. Here, I pay money, give me ev­ery­thing to­mor­row,” Si­utkin says. “They thought they were sav­ing time. Many lawyers also fol­lowed th­ese rules.”

But such prac­tices cre­ated long-term prob­lems, ex­ac­er­bat­ing the lack of rule of law.

Slop­pily ex­e­cuted le­gal pro­cesses paved the way for cor­po­rate raid­ing and other prob­lems. “And now, start­ing cou­ple years ago, big busi­ness re­al­ized that it has be­come a hostage of th­ese” in­sider con­nec­tions, he says.

When Si­utkin launched his com­pany, he wanted to “help busi­nesses to do ev­ery­thing cor­rectly.” When they started, most clients wanted S&P to de­fend them from cor­po­rate

raid­ing at­tempts.

“The (raid­ing) schemes were grace­ful and crafty, it was al­most im­pos­si­ble to find a fault,” Si­utkin says. “We used to win any­way though.”

“Shady lawyers” who rep­re­sented raiders, in a way, be­came Si­utkin’s teach­ers. He and his col­leagues fol­lowed their steps and ex­plored their meth­ods, at the same time learn­ing how to fight them in courts. “It’s like a chess game,” he says. As an ex­am­ple, Si­utkin men­tions the case of the Ukrainian branch of Swiss com­pany Risoil.

Ukrainian pros­e­cu­tors ac­cused the com­pany of pay­ing bribes, il­le­gally trad­ing with Rus­sian-oc­cu­pied Crimea and the il­le­gal seizure of land. Risoil then went public with a claim that Ukraine’s pros­e­cu­tors were putting il­le­gal pres­sure on it, which pros­e­cu­tors de­nied.

It took S&P In­vest­ment Risks Man­age­ment Agency’s team a year to set­tle the case in fa­vor of the com­pany. They filed more than 100 mo­tions to pros­e­cu­tors, and more than 60 ap­peals to the court.

“Ev­ery­thing de­pends on the busi­ness owner. If an owner al­lows the busi­ness to be raided, it will hap­pen,” Si­utkin says. “The le­gal fight takes a lot of time, money and ef­fort.” How­ever, it’s pos­si­ble to win, he says. To prove it, Si­utkin launched the Lawyers Daily web­site and a printed mag­a­zine with the same name. The idea is to pub­lish in­ter­views with CEOS of big com­pa­nies who have pos­i­tive sto­ries to tell.

“The in­vest­ment cli­mate here is great,” Si­utkin says. “You just have to eval­u­ate the risks.”

Ac­cord­ing to Nataliya Osad­cha, co-founder and in­vest­ment risk ad­viser at S&P In­vest­ment Risks Man­age­ment Agency, do­ing busi­ness in Ukraine can be com­pared to raft­ing on river rapids. “It can be a thrilling trip, if you are pre­pared for some bumps and bruises,” she said.

Si­utkin says he feels pre­pared for any­thing. At some point, about five years ago, he said he re­al­ized that if he wanted to be pro­fes­sion­ally pow­er­ful he needed to be strong phys­i­cally.

Since then, he has been work­ing out at least two hours ev­ery day. He com­pleted 10 half-marathons (a 21-kilo­me­ter run), two marathons (a 42-kilo­me­ter run), five half Iron­man races (a 1.9-kilo­me­ter swim, a 90-kilo­me­ter bike ride, and a 21-kilo­me­ter run) and one Iron­man, a triathlon race with each dis­tance of the swim, bike, and run seg­ments be­ing twice longer of that seg­ment in a half Iron­man.

Si­utkin is tak­ing part in an­other Iron­man race in Aus­tria on July 2. He has also qual­i­fied for this year’s Half Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship that will take place in Chat­tanooga, a city in the Amer­i­can state of Ten­nessee, in Septem­ber.

“Sport gives me the un­der­stand­ing that hu­man pos­si­bil­i­ties are not lim­ited. You can squeeze any amount of tasks into your busy sched­ule,” he says. “It’s time now for peo­ple to leave marks in his­tory… In all spheres.”

Risoil S.A, the Ukrainian branch of a Swiss com­pany which spe­cial­izes in agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties, won its year-long bat­tle against il­le­gal pres­sure from pros­e­cu­tors with the help of S & P law firm and public ex­po­sure of what the ha­rass­ment cam­paign of pros­e­cu­tors. (Cour­tesy of Risoil S.A)

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