Court Freezes Shares in Flagship Ukraine Football Club

KIEV, Ukraine -- A court on Wednesday froze shares in the flagship Ukrainian football club Dynamo Kiev, less than a week after a top minister warned the club could be targetted in a probe into past privatizations, the Interfax news agency reported.

Dynamo Kiev, a 13-times Soviet league winner, dominates the football world in this former Soviet republic, having won every title except for 2002 and the year the league was set-up, 1992, when it finished runners-up.

The Kiev court upheld a complaint from a company called Pacific International Sports Clubs Limited (PISCL), that its rights were violated through the sale of more than 98 percent of the stock to third parties.

The court determined that the plaintiff, owner of 0.1 per cent of stock in Dynamo Kiev, should have had a priority right as an existing shareholder in the joint-stock company to acquire the shares.

Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Tomenko said on Friday that the ownership of Dynamo Kiev could be reviewed under a probe into allegedly corrupt privatizations during the decade-long rule of former president Leonid Kuchma.

The club's president is Ihor Surkis, the brother of the chairman of the Ukrainian football federation, Grigory Surkis, a lawmaker with close political ties to the ousted regime.

The court determined that the acquisition by several companies of 98.71 per cent of shares in Dynamo Kiev between 2000 and 2004 violated PISCL's rights and ordered documents about the stock's ownership from the registry company.

Ukraine's SBU Security Service chief Olexander Turchinov denied any political motive for the court decision.

"I don't think this is a question of politics. It's a problem that is purely an economic dispute which should be resolved through the courts," he was quoted as saying by Interfax.