NEW YORK, NEW YORK, US — The High Court of England on Jan. 14 issued an order to seize the assets of Sergiy Groza and Voloymyr Naumenko, owners of GNT Group and Olimpex Coupe International, which owns a grain terminal in Ukraine’s Port of Odesa. The order was issued in response to a claim brought forward by US investment companies Innovatus Capital Partners and Argentem Creek Partners (ACP), creditors of GNT Group.

ACP on its website issued a statement noting that despite Innovatus’ and ACP’s continued support for GNT Group, including the offer to postpone loan payments following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, investigations revealed that the company liquidated all grain pledged to Innovatus without notice or consent.

Grain leaving the Port of Odesa has become a critical aspect of negotiations between Ukraine, Russia, and world leaders due to its significance for global food security. The Black Sea Grain Initiative extension, which enabled the partial resumption of Ukrainian grain exports following a naval blockade by Russia, highlights the importance of ensuring terminals in the region operate efficiently, transparently and with integrity, AGP said.

“We find it despicable that the owners of GNT Group would exploit the war to commit fraud,” said Ana Firmato, managing director at Innovatus. “The strategic importance of grain leaving Odesa’s port for global food security is clear to all supporters of Ukraine. Innovatus remain steadfast in our continued commitment to invest in Ukraine and support its economy.”

She said investigations show that all grain pledged to Innovatus has been fraudulently liquidated by the owners of GNT Group. Innovatus therefore had no choice but to pursue a worldwide freezing order to prevent further dissipation of assets by Naumenko and Groza.

“ACP and Innovatus have joined forces because of material failings of transparency and governance, and suspected large-scale asset dissipation and corporate wrongdoing,” said John Patton, ACP’s portfolio manager for EMEA and Asia. “Since enforcement actions have begun, we have identified the transfer of members of the GNT Group which own silos to an entity in Switzerland which we understand is controlled by GNT Group’s Chief Financial Officer Dusan Denic. Once GNT Group relinquishes control of the port to responsible operators, these issues will be resolved with minimal disruption to the grain corridor. We are determined to continue our broader commitment to invest in Ukraine.”

GNT Group in late December denied the allegations in a statement to the Ukrainian News Agency.

"In November 2019, the management company GNT Group attracted two credit lines from Argentem Creek Partners in the amount of $25 million and $50 million,” the message said. “In fact, all these funds were directed to the repayment of the (European Bank and Reconstruction Development) loan and the purchase of a 26% stake of CHS Europe S.a.r.l. in the grain terminal Olimpex Coupe International. In its statement, the Argentem Creek Partners fund said that it suspected GNT Group of abusing the loan funds. But the loan agreement was concluded in such a way that all loan funds had a purely targeted purpose, and any misuse of them was impossible.”

Innovatus and ACP said they have a long-standing history of investing in Ukraine, and that both companies “remain committed in ensuring that this grain terminal is managed correctly within Ukrainian and international guidelines.”