NY court asked to freeze Uzan family’s assets in UAE bank

NY court asked to freeze Uzan family’s assets in UAE bank

NEW YORK - Reuters
An attorney for a Motorola subsidiary has asked New York’s top state court to allow it to freeze the assets of Turkish Uzan family held by a branch of an international bank in the United Arab Emirates.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan in 2003 ruled that the Uzan family owed Motorola Credit more than $2 billion and tacked on $1 billion in punitive damages in 2006. It was found that the Uzans siphoned off loans that Motorola Credit made more than a decade ago to Turkish mobile phone company Telsim, which the family controlled at the time.

Last year, however, Rakoff ruled in favor of defendant Standard Chartered Bank, who was holding $30 million for the Uzans in a branch in the United Arab Emirates. Rakoff said New York law precluded Motorola from ordering a freeze on that money. A federal appeals court asked the New York Court of Appeals to decide whether Rakoff was right.

Motorola attorney Howard Stahl told the Court of Appeals in Albany on Sept. 16 that a ruling against Motorola would give the Uzans, whom Rakoff called “fugitives,” an opportunity to put the money out of the company’s reach.

“By the time we got done [in the United Arab Emirates], the money would be moved to Switzerland or the Cook Islands,” said Stahl.

Bruce Clark, who represents Standard Chartered, told the court that ordering the bank to turn over the Uzans’ money would violate a rule created by New York courts that treats individual bank branches as separate legal entities.