Doubts Raised Over New York
Controversial Buddha Decision
Rod Dozor in Moscow and Victor L. in New
July 29, 2011
After nearly 16 months of
hearings on the question of who gets the honor of being the lawyer
representing former Buddha Bar (now called Ajna), New York judge Bernard
Fried has finally issued a 45-page decision. Lawyers for Inna Gudavadze and
Andrew Baker, Gudavadze's offshore trustee, took the cake. Fried ruled that
the lawyers representing the founders of Buddha Bar must now refer to
themselves as its "former attorneys".
Gudavadze, a Russian national, now residing in the U.K.,
is the widow of the former Georgian billionaire and philanthropist Badri
Patarkatsishvili, who passed away on February 12, 2008. Since
Patarkatsishvili’s untimely death, Gudavadze has been embroiled in a bitter
worldwide court battle with other members of Patarkatsishvili’s family over
the remnants of the estate of her late husband. Gudavadze is claiming the
famed Buddha Bar to be part of her inheritance. Fried’s decision has made
her closer to that goal, although it stopped short of addressing Buddha’s
Buddha Bar NYC (now, Ajna Bar), a New York landmark
700-seat restaurant in the meatpacking district, is often featured in
international media as a "hangout for a select few hundred."
Gudavadze, an un-named party in the New York Buddha
proceedings, and the ultimate beneficiary of Fried's decision is represented
by Martin Russo of the small Manhattan law firm Gusrae Kaplan Bruno &
The New York judge’s
decision comes on the heels of the recent controversy over Gudavadze’s
alleged boasting respecting her ability to influence courts’ decisions
through extra-judicial means and by paying off witnesses to give
Judge promoted to Chief Justice of Gibraltar- -
In December 2010
FrontierNewstm reported Gudavadze openly
boasting that she had secured a favorable decision in Gibraltar court
because her then lawyer, British Lord Peter Goldsmith, promised
Gibraltar judge Anthony Dudley "to pull strings in London" to get Dudley
promoted to the Gibraltar Chief Justice. Gudavadze has subsequently
denied making these statements. But doubts persisted.
Gibraltar, a flourishing tax haven, is a tiny enclave
with a population of 30 thousand located at the southern tip of Spain.
One-fifth the size of Orlando’ Disneyworld, Gibraltar is considered an
overseas territory of the United Kingdom. Gibraltar’s senior judges are
formally appointed by the Queen of England through her Gibraltarian
Lord Goldsmith, a former U.K. Attorney General,
dubbed "Lord of Controversy" for his admitted extra-marital affairs and much
covered U.K. - Saudi shady arms deal, had been Gudavadze’s lead counsel in
the estate controversy since Badri’s death.
The record of Gibraltar proceedings before Dudley is
tainted by the perjurious testimonies of Gudavadze’s witnesses. On June 19,
2008, Esther Meimoun, a former common law wife of Joseph Kay, Gudavadze’s
principal opponent in the estate proceedings, filed an affidavit withdrawing
the sworn statement she gave a month ago.
In her June 2008 affidavit, Meimoun explains that
Gudavadze contacted her after hearing about her falling out with Kay.
Gudavadze paid for Meimoun’s ticket from Miami to London and for
accommodations in the five-star Hilton Park Lane Hotel. The pair met at
Gudavadze’s mansion, where Meimoun stayed overnight. Next morning Meimoun
was driven to the office of Goldsmith. There, she signed a sworn statement
prepared by Goldsmith which, according to her affidavit, was "completely
untrue". For her signing of perjurious sworn statement Gudavadze paid
Meimoun €19,231.21 (approximately US$35,000) and a promise of paying her "an
additional success fee" of €1 million (approximately US$1.4 million) if
Gudavadze prevails against Kay. Meimoun attaches to her affidavit a copy of
the wire transfer.
Meimoun apologized to the court for her previous "false
and misleading statements" and said: "I realized that I have made a big
mistake in making the first statement of 14 May ." Meimoun explains
that she did so "because [she] was very angry with Joseph Kay", and "because
I wanted to receive that money I provided them with a statement even though
I knew the contents of it to be untrue."
David Aim, a young French-Moroccan, another Gudavadze
witness in Gibraltar, admitted on cross-examination that he was paid $30,000
per month by Gudavadze for part-time consulting. The "consulting" consisted
solely of providing testimony in the Gibraltar case. Aim testified that he
also was offered a "bonus" when Gudavadze prevails.
Nonetheless, in January 2010, the Gibraltar judge ruled
On February 1, 2010, days after Dudley’s finding in favor
of Gudavadze, the Governor of Gibraltar announced Dudley’s appointment as
the Chief Justice of Gibraltar.
Gudavadze’s opponents appealed. Peculiarly, on appeal
from his own decision, Dudley also sat as the appellate judge, even though
Gibraltar law specifically prohibits a judge who presided over a trial to
act as judge on appeal. Dudley quickly dismissed the appeal.
John Moscow to the rescue - -
Amidst allegations of improprieties, Goldsmith withdrew
from Gudavadze’s representation in late 2009. According to a January 2010
report in The Guardian, Goldsmith was replaced by New York-based
lawyer John Moscow, a former assistant Manhattan DA described by his contemporaries as "Rottweiler"
for his sensationalistic prosecutorial zeal.
In the March 2010
tape-recorded telephone interview with a free-lance Georgian reporter,
Gudavadze was blustering that Moscow is "on a first-name basis with all
New York judges” and Moscow’s law firm “may give the Buddha judge a 100
thousand-dollar a month job”. Judge Fried, however, has never been mentioned by name
... After the preview of the interview appeared in NewsLand,
Gudavadze once again denied ever making these statements. When the
recording was broached, Gudavadze’s lawyers in Eastern Europe threatened
criminal prosecution. Georgian law makes surreptitious recordings a
crime and it is unclear from the tape whether Gudavadze was told that
she was being recorded. The interview has never found its way to the air
Moscow is a partner in the law firm of Baker Hostetler, a
700-lawyer Manhattan firm. Following the conviction of Bernard Madoff and
collapse of his multibillion dollar Ponzi empire, BH became the
court appointed trustee over its assets. BH is known for paying its partners
some of the highest salaries in the business.
Brokering peace in the family - -
"I honestly tried to broker peace in our family", said
Yaffa Yakoubov, a second niece of Gudavadze. Yakoubov, a young graduate of
New York’s Cardozo Law School, knew both Patarkatsishvili and Gudavadze
since she was a child referring to them as uncle Badri and aunt Inna.
Yakoubov has never taken sides in the bitter family
controversy over Patarkatsishvili’s estate. A month ago, she telephoned
Gudavadze and suggested that, in the interest of family unity, all family
members should meet and try to settle their differences. Gudavadze refused,
saying that she had "a better way".
She confided in Yakoubov that she had
won a court battle over Badri’s estate in Gibraltar because the judge there
was "in her pocket", said Yakoubov. Gudavadze also said that her emissaries
"found a way to the judge", presiding over a controversy respecting the
famed family owned Manhattan Buddha-Bar restaurant, and will hand down a
judgment in Inna’s favor regardless of the merit, according to Yakoubov’s
"I was astounded", Yakoubov said. She attempted to
convince Gudavadze that unlike in Russia, judges in the U.S. do not render
decisions because someone has "found a way" to them. "Inna just laughed and
said that I remained a naive child" Yakoubov recalls. .
The raid - -
reported here and in other media, on March 31, 2010, a contingent of 20 men
armed with guns and steel batons walked into Buddha Bar, threatened the
employees and locked out Ajna's management. Leading the pack of intruders
were Russo and Jean-Yves Haouzi, former general manager of Buddha Bar fired
by Buddha's holding company, Little Rest Twelve, Inc.
April 1, 2010, Little Rest Twelve filed an emergency motion seeking to
remove the intruders in the Supreme Court of New York County. On April
2, Judge Bernard Fried held a hearing. Having heard
both sides the judge issued an order referring Russo and Haouzi
to the District Attorney's Office of New York County. "It strikes me as
there may be a basis for criminal investigation here", the judge said.
judge however has never considered, to this day, the motion of Nina Zajic,
CEO of Little Rest Twelve, Inc., seeking to remove the intruders. Instead,
he ordered a protracted hearing on who should be the lawyer of record for
Little Rest Twelve in the lawsuit before him.
LB obtained a copy of a letter written by
Zajic one day prior to Fried's handing down of the decision. In the letter
Zajic advised Fried that she was giving up the 16-month old fight because
her application for injunction had never been considered or ruled upon and
the intruders were still in control of Buddha Bar. "Although no official
decision by Your Honor was made in that regard, letting the raiders remain
in our business was de facto the decision that sealed our fate", Zajic wrote
to Fried. Zajic's emotion-filled letter goes on to say:
"Since March 31, 2010 takeover, which Your Honor
described as “raid”, LR12 has not been paying its legitimate creditors
for almost a year and a half. The amount which we owe and personally
signed for is over $35 million. Compounding this travesty, my
fellow-directors and I are personally liable for nearly 20% of that
sum... ...I have not been paid my salary for the past 16 months. Neither
have other officers of the Company. In addition, we foolishly borrowed
hundreds of thousands of dollars on our personal guarantees to
underwrite legal costs in the hope of getting back into my business. My
credit cards are cancelled, my house is being taken away. I am on the
verge of personal bankruptcy myself, and at the end of the rope
financially and emotionally."
When asked about the timing of her letter to the judge -
- following 16-months of indecision and two days prior to its entry - -
Zajic said: "Inna [Gudavadze] knew precisely when the decision will be
signed by the judge and described it in detail".
Conclusion of "Doubts Raised..."
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