SPI Group, the privately-owned vodka producer in battle with the Russian state for ownership of Stolichnaya vodka, is taking legal action against a former employee it claims has divulged secret information to the Russian state-owned vodka company Soujzplodoimport.

In a statement released today SPI said it had brought two actions in an Austrian court against Hannes Shwarts, who had been till recently been employed by SPI to help fight against counterfeit products. However, SPI said Shwarts had now entered contractual relations with Soujzplodoimport, with the purpose of promoting their vodka brands to Western markets.

In doing so SPI claims Shwarts had broken his contract and divulged confidential information. SPI said it also wanted Shwartz to return a large credit it claims he had received earlier.

SPI warned that it would also claim damages caused to the commercial activity of the company and amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, from Shwarts.

In a statement SPI said: "In future (sic) SPI Group will press for punishment according to Civil and Criminal Code of the respective countries for the organisers of shipments of counterfeit goods under trademarks Stolichnaya, Moscovskaya, if such facts arise."

It said, in the first place, this concerns Soujzplodoimport's plans to fill Western markets with brands SPI claims it owns.

Just-drinks was unable to contact Hannes Shwarts for comment.