Russian authorities are hoping to make legal history by applying an American racketeering law in a Moscow court as they seek to recover billions of dollars in damages from the Bank of New York Mellon.
Hearings resume Monday in the Russian Federal Customs Service's $22.5 billion lawsuit against the bank, which was at the center of a major money-laundering scandal in the late 1990s.
In a highly unusual move, Russia has brought the case under a famous U.S. law used to fight organized crime, and both sides have drawn on the expert opinion of some of America's best-known legal minds in preparing their case.
The Russians have brought in Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Robert Blakey, one of the authors of the 1970 statute on racketeer-influenced and corrupt organizations, or RICO. Bank of New York Mellon lawyers are fielding Richard Thornburgh, a former U.S. attorney general and Pennsylvania governor.
The RICO statue has never been successfully ruled on in a foreign court, according to lawyers. If the Moscow court agrees to apply the U.S. law, some lawyers predict it would open the floodgates for a slew of similar claims.