Legal Insights on Committal Proceedings: Navigator Equities Limited & Anor v Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska Case Analysis

Citation: [2024] EWCA Civ 268
Judgment on


The case of Navigator Equities Limited & Anor v Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska concerns an appeal against a High Court Judge’s dismissal of a committal application for alleged breach of court undertaking and a secondary appeal on the issue of costs awarded. The case provides significant insights into the legal principles surrounding committal proceedings, enforcement of court undertakings, and costs awards in legal disputes. This article will dissect these legal principles and contextualize them within the framework of the judgments delivered by the courts.

Key Facts

Navigator Equities Limited and another party (the appellants) accused Mr. Deripaska of contempt of court for allegedly breaching a court undertaking by allowing B-Finance Limited, a company he controlled, to vote in favor of relocating EN+ Group Plc’s domicile from Jersey to Russia. The appellants suggested that this act contravened the undertaking given to the court which was meant to ensure that shares held as security remained enforceable.

The High Court Judge dismissed the committal application, holding that the appellants did not prove their allegations to the criminal standard. Subsequently, the appellants were ordered to pay part of Mr. Deripaska’s costs on an indemnity basis, which led to the costs appeal.

The legal principles underpinning the Navigator Equities Limited & Anor v Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska case can be distilled into several core areas:

  1. Standard of Proof in Committal Proceedings: Committal applications must be proved to the criminal standard of proof, which is beyond reasonable doubt. The court is bound by the allegations listed in the application notice [Kea Investments Limited v Watson].

  2. Clarity in Undertakings: For enforcement by way of contempt proceedings, an injunction or undertaking must be expressed in clear and certain terms [AG v Punch Limited; Cuadrilla Bowland Limited v Persons unknown].

  3. Role of Context in Interpretation: The words of an undertaking should be interpreted in their context, both historically and with respect to the object of the order [Pan Petroleum AJE Limited v Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum Limited].

  4. Adherence to the Application Notice: The applicant is strictly confined to proving the contempt allegations laid out in the application notice [Re L (A Child)].

  5. Costs Assessment: Costs are typically awarded on a standard basis unless there is conduct or a circumstance that takes the case out of the norm, justifying an order for costs on the indemnity basis [Excelsior Commercial & Industrial Holdings Ltd v Salisbury Hammer Aspden & Johnson].

  6. Appropriateness of Language: There are expectations around the language used in legal documents. Both evidence and argument should be presented in a manner that is conducive to the seriousness of the proceedings.


The committal appeal was dismissed. The judge’s reasoning centered on how the shares in question were characterized in the application notice and the significance of the notion of the shares being “automatically cancelled” as a result of EN+‘s change of domicile. The appellants could not prove, to the criminal standard required, that there was a cancellation of shares in the sense asserted in their application notice.

In the costs appeal, the appellate court allowed the appeal, setting aside the part of the order that directed Mr. Deripaska’s costs related to a specific affidavit to be assessed on the indemnity basis. The justices held that the imposition of indemnity costs was essentially punitive and non-compensatory, as it failed to take account of the proportionality principle critical in costs awards, especially in fiercely fought litigation such as this.


The case demonstrates the high bar for proving contempt in committal proceedings and stresses the import of clarity and consistency in legal submissions and undertakings. The outcomes also underscore the court’s focus on proportionality and appropriate exercise of judicial discretion in costs awards. For legal professionals in the UK, these principles provide guiding criteria on the preparation and argumentation of cases, particularly where punitive measures such as committal to prison may be contemplated.