Millions in Saskatchewan potash assets at centre of international legal saga

An acrimonious legal wrangle over millions in potash assets and is currently being played out in the Saskatchewan courts, involving Byzantine business intrigues and a bevy of international players.

Seven individuals and six companies from Russia, Israel, Switzerland, Cyprus, China, the USA as well as Saskatchewan are involved in the dispute, which has given rise to three separate legal actions currently being processed by the courts.

At the centre of the dispute is Devonian Potash, a Saskatchewan corporation which possesses 11 potash permits, and shares in the USD14.3 million bonanza of the corporation when it sells these permits for a markedly higher value.

Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, a Russian and Israeli national residing in Switzerland, enlisted the assistance of Igor Medge, a Russian national residing in the USA, and Jason Mann, a Canadian hailing from Saskatchewan, to purchase a 100% stake in Devonian Potash for $15 million in 2008.

Mann and Medge used 101109711 Saskatchewan Ltd. to obtain shares in Devonian, and Mann and his brother were compensated with approximately 14.3% of the Class A shares of the company, the remainder of which are held by the Cyprus-registered corporation Viasat Services Limited, said to be under the control of Kantor.

Devonian sold its potash permits for $150.5 million to a Chinese company last year, of which $100 million was at the time of execution of the contract, and a further $50 million remains unpaid.

Prior to the sale, however, Mann and Kantor’s relationship took a turn for the worst, with Kantor filing two lawsuits against Mann accusing him of breach of fiduciary duty, as well as of being a “thief and a traitor” and threatening to drive Mann to fiscal ruin.

Mann, fearing the proceeds of the sale of the Potash permits would become untraceable because of Viasat’s influence, launched a lawsuit with his brother seeking an injunction to prevent full distribution of the proceeds.

A judge ruled the claim would not be applicable to more than 14.3% of the $100 million paid by the Chinese ($14.3 million), and the injunction application was initially dismissed. Canada’s highest court has since found, however, that the Queen’s Bench judge was wrong to refuse the injunction, and has ordered a Saskatchewan law firm to retain the money in a trust account temporarily.

The dispute highlights the surging demand for potash on the global market, and the precipitous rise in the value of Saskatchewan potash permits, which has drawn the interest of international financial players.