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VKontakte Founder Sues Former Partners for Extortion in Battle Over Messaging App

Published: June 3, 2014 (Issue # 1813)



  • Pavel Durov, the founder of VKontakte, has accused his former partners of extortion.
    Photo: VK.com

St. Petersburg-born Pavel Durov, the 29-year-old founder of Russia's most popular social network, VKontakte, is suing his former business partners and the Moscow-based investment fund United Capital Partners, or UCP, for what he sees as an illegal attempt to seize control of one of his companies, instant messaging application Telegram.

In a lawsuit filed with a U.S. District court in New York on April 30, Durov accused his former partners Ilya Perekopsky and Axel Neff as well as UCP partners Ilya Scherbovich, Victoria Lazareva and Yury Kachuro of resorting to extortion in an attempt to gain control of Telegram, Vedomosti reported Monday.

Telegram was founded in 2011, shortly after Durov had a run-in with the Federal Security Service, or FSB. As street protests flared up following parliamentary elections in December 2011, the FSB demanded access to user data and messages on Durov's VKontakte — a Facebook-like social network that has a much larger user base in Russia than its U.S. rival, and through which many of the protests were organized. Durov refused the request and said that he came under increasing pressure from the FSB to hand over information. As the pressure mounted, Durov sold his share of VKontakte, resigned as its chief and in April fled the country.

Telegram is analogous to the popular messaging application WhatsApp, but with increased security measures to prevent messages from being intercepted and read by spooks around the world. Durov said in his court statements that he chose to keep the details of his project secret and distribute its assets among several of his companies in several different legal jurisdictions to protect it, Vedomosti reported.

According to Durov, his former partners and UCP attempted to take control of Telegram by leveraging their stakes in several of Durov's companies that own shares in the project — Digital Fortress LLC and Pictograph LLC. Vedomosti said he has asked the court to ensure reimbursement damages and recognize him as the rightful owner of Telegram's assets.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at today’s Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nation’s premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the city’s elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s latest film “Mommy” at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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