Zivkovic Samardzic has secured a victory for Vojvodanska banka Novi Sad, a member of the National Bank of Greece Group in a EUR 13.5 million dispute with Sojaprotein Becej, the largest soybean processor in Serbia.
According to a Zivkovic Samardzic press release, the dispute stemmed from a bank guarantee issued in 1979 by the legal predecessor of Vojvodanska to a German creditor of Sojaprotein. The credit was later subject to refinancing and finally taken over by the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) as a result of its negotiations with Paris and London Club creditors. According to the 2002 Law governing the relations between the FRY and legal entities and banks within the territory of the FRY, Vojvodanska — as the legal successor of the original guarantor was released from its liabilities towards Sojaprotein’s creditor — while liabilities that were created towards the FRY, (i.e. its member states), were converted into the bank’s shares. At the same time, Sojaprotein as the original debtor was obliged to settle its debt with Vojvodanska.
Since Sojaprotein declined to settle the debt, Vojvodanska banka instituted court proceedings in 2005 and won a first instance decision in 2009 at the Commercial Court in Novi Sad. However, that decision was later quashed by the Commercial Appellate Court upon Sojaprotein’s appeal and in a subsequent retrial the Commercial Court in Novi Sad rejected the claim of Vojvodanska banka. The lawyer originally representing Vojvodanska was Milos Vucevic, who since has entered politics and is now the major of Novi Sad. Uros Keca and Branislav Gavanski originally represented Sojaprotein with the latter of the two lawyers later joining the Novi Sad-based firm Bajic & Popovic.
For the appellate proceedings, the bank, which had been acquired by the National Bank of Greece Group in the interim, decided to retain Zivkovic Samardzic. The appeal was successful and in December 2012 the Commercial Appellate Court in Belgrade reversed the first instance decision and obliged Sojaprotein to pay the full EUR 13.5 million in 2013.
Sojaprotein submitted a revision to the Supreme Court of Cassation of Serbia, but that court only upheld the second instance decision of the Commercial Appellate Court in Belgrade. Sojaprotein then lodged a constitutional appeal that lead to a decision of the Constitutional Court of Serbia, brought, according to Zivkovic Samardzic, “in a non-transparent proceeding that the bank was not able to participate in, nor even notified of, ordering a retrial in revision proceedings at the Supreme Court of Cassation." Finally the Supreme Court of Cassation, in a decision recently delivered to the parties, while rectifying the concerns of the Constitutional Court, once again confirmed the decision of the Commercial Appellate Court in Belgrade in favour of the bank.
The Zivkovic Samardzic team representing Vojvodanska was led by Milos Milosevic, Partner in the Dispute Resolution practice. At the Supreme Court of Cassation of Serbia and at the Constitutional Court of Serbia, Sojaprotein was represented by Vladimirka Milicevic.
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