Bermudian lawyer drops Russian directorship over attack on Ukraine
A veteran Bermudian lawyer has quit a Russian liquor company in a protest over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Wendell Hollis was a director and vice-president of Roust Trading, the producer and distributor of Russian Standard Vodka, but told The Royal Gazette today that he resigned from the post on Wednesday.
Mr Hollis, of the law firm Wakefield Quin, said he had also resigned as legal counsel for Roust.
He said: “I have been involved with them for 27 years. I was a close friend of the owner, Roustam Tariko, and I have been in constant contact with him over the last six weeks.
“I made it very clear that I am very against the war and, at this stage, very pro-Ukrainian, and therefore it was untenable for me to have anything to do with Roust Trading Ltd.”
Mr Hollis added that Wakefield Quin had left the decision to him on whether he would continue to work with Roust Trading.
He said: “In our firm, it was a personal choice. They left it to the individuals to make the choice they felt appropriate.”
Mr Hollis added: “At this stage, I’m not saying that Wakefield Quin has resigned from being the lawyer for Roust Trading Ltd.”
Erik Gotfredsen, a director and CEO of Wakefield Quin, said the firm was “unable to disclose specifics” about any of its clients because of attorney-client privilege.
But he added: “Wakefield Quin has systems in place for monitoring client engagements to ensure we do not act in a way that conflicts with our social values or breaches applicable sanctions.
“Furthermore, we apply enhanced measures for reviewing any engagements with exposure to Russia, including ongoing sanction screening.”
Roust was founded in 1992 by Roustam Tariko.
Mr Tariko, who had originally ran a cleaning company, started to import Italian chocolates into Russia in the late 1980s and the business later expanding to include the importation and distribution of Martini products in the region.
He launched Russian Standard Vodka in 1998, which propelled Roust to the position of second-largest vodka manufacturer in the world.
Mr Tariko, now a billionaire, also founded the Russian Standard Bank in 1999, which became Russia’s largest consumer lending bank.
Forbes magazine estimated in 2009 that Mr Tariko was worth $1.1 billion.
Russian Standard Vodka has been the subject of international boycotts and many retailers in the US and UK have removed bottles from their shelves since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last month.
Mr Hollis, who has practised law in Bermuda for more than 40 years, said that he had visited Russia with his wife as part of his work with the Russian company and once had a work permit for the country.
He was speaking at a tree-planting event at Government House designed to promote peaceful solutions to disputes.
Mr Hollis added: “At the time I was very much of the view that it was necessary for westerners to try to assist Russia to incorporate itself into the West as much as possible to put the Cold War behind us.
“That was working, and when my wife and I went to Russia we found it a very hospitable place, but in the last several years — I would say in the last ten years under Putin — that has all become something of the past.”
Mr Hollis said: “I monitor the war every day, and there is no sign at this stage of a possible peace arrangement.
“Ukrainians are taking the right approach and saying: ‘You invade us and you have to leave and you have to give us our country back’.”