Russian bank taps ex-Shkreli lawyer in US lawsuit over downed airliner

The VTB bank logo is seen in Saint Petersburg, Russia, June 3, 2021. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

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  • Sanctioned bank VTB says it plans to hire Marc Agnifilo and Zach Intrater of Brafman & Associates to replace Latham & Watkins
  • Debevoise and White & Case consider opting out of representing co-defendant Sberbank

(Reuters) – Sanctioned Russian lender VTB Bank, which is challenging in a U.S. court allegations that it helped fund the downing of an international passenger plane eight years ago, has reached a deal to bring in new lawyers after the global law firm that represents him pulled out over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

New York-based criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Marc Agnifilo, whose former clients included former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli, convicted NXIVM cult founder Keith Raniere and disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, is set to take over the case from Latham & Watkins, VTB said in a filing Thursday in Manhattan federal court.

Latham defended the Russian bank in the lawsuit stemming from the 2014 downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine. VTB and another Russian lender, Sberbank, have disputed claims by relatives of an American killed in the attack that they funneled money to Russian separatists who shot down the plane.

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US law firms Debevoise & Plimpton and White & Case, which represent Sberbank in the lawsuit, said in court papers on Thursday that they would also formally withdraw. They did not specify which firms would take over, but said the new attorneys would formally seek to enter the case later this month. A Debevoise spokesperson said the firm had no comment. A White & Case attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

VTB told the court on Thursday that issues stemming from the Russia sanctions regime had complicated efforts to hire replacements for Latham & Watkins before the June 2 deadline, but that he had an “agreement in principle” to retain Agnifilo and another attorney, Zach Entrer.

Agnifilo and Intrater, both with Brafman & Associates of Manhattan, did not respond to requests for comment.

VTB asked the court for two more weeks for the new lawyer to officially enter the case. On Friday, a magistrate judge granted the request but warned he would not grant future extensions without an affidavit detailing efforts to hire a new attorney.

Several major law firms have severed ties with war-sanctioned Russian entities in Ukraine, which reached its 100th day on Friday.

Former Agnifilo client Shkreli was released from prison and transferred to a halfway house last month after his conviction for defrauding investors. Raniere, the founder of cult group NXIVM was sentenced to 120 years in prison in 2020 after being found guilty of sex trafficking and other crimes. Agnifilo was also part of the legal team defending Weinstein, but the company pulled out of that case ahead of the former producer’s rape trial.

Veteran defense attorney Ben Brafman, founder of Brafman & Associates, was lead counsel in the Shkreli and Weinstein cases.

Intrater joined the Brafman firm in 2020, according to his LinkedIn page, after 11 years as a federal prosecutor in New Jersey. Both Intrater and Agnifilo were part of the defense team for former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng, who was convicted in August of corruption charges related to his role in looting hundreds of millions of dollars from the fund. of Malaysian Development 1MDB.

Read more:

Russian bank faces US court default if it can’t find new law firm

Law firm defending Russian bank VTB asks to leave US case over shot down robbery

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