Official control of the Cristall distillery, Russia's largest vodka producer, was passed to the newly founded state-run concern Rosspirtprom on Monday but already the legality of the new management is being contested in court.

A special shareholders meeting on Monday convened and legalised the transfer of Cristall to Rosspirtprom. There is no longer a single representative of the last controller, the Moscow city authorities, on the board and shareholders also decided to reduce the number of directors from 17 to 11.

But on Tuesday a group of Moscow bailiffs came to the distillery and demanded access for former general director Alexander Romanov, according to Russian reports, who was relieved from his position on 9 November.

The bailiffs presented a St Petersburg court judgement based on a minority shareholder suit that demanded the annulment of decisions made by the board of directors.

Romanov who is backed by the Moscow City Government was not at the distillery on Tuesday and was not available for comment.

Natalya Salangina, deputy director of Rosspirtprom and a Cristall board member, said the new management was astonished by the turn of events and that the shareholder who lodged the suit was not on the shareholder list.

Earlier this month 51% of Cristall shares were transferred to Rosspirtprom, a newly registered holding company created to accumulate all state-owned shares in alcohol-producing businesses.

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