The chief of Pernod Ricard's Stolichnaya partner is the subject of an arrest warrant in his native Russia.

A court in Moscow yesterday (16 August) issued a warrant for the arrest of Yury Shefler, whose company, the SPI Group, owns the rights to distribute the Stolichnaya vodka brand outside Russia. Pernod handles the distribution of the vodka worldwide, with the exception of Russia.

The court said that Shefler should be arrested on charges including the use of violence against a government official and trademark violations.

The judge at Basmanny District Court was cited by local press as saying: "Information on the personality of the accused gives grounds to assume that if he remains at large he could continue to carry out criminal activities, pressure witnesses and destroy evidence."

State-owned company Soyuzplodoimport, which holds the Stolichnaya trademark in Russia, has been fighting to regain control of the brand's rights since it sold the brand to SPI for US$300,000 in 1997. The market price for just two brands, Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya, was then estimated at nearer US$400m. The state-controlled firm has claimed that Shefler forged and destroyed documents in order to buy Stolichnaya at the lower price. Shefler subsequently moved his operations from Russia to Latvia.

Pernod has confirmed that it has been in discussions with Soyuzplodoimport to settle the row since May last year.

No-one was available for comment at Pernod when contacted by just-drinks today.