At the hearing held in New York Supreme Court on December 5, 2010, a non-party witness Robbie Mingles testified that Martin Russo and Marlen Kruzhkov of New York law firm Gusrae Kaplan, Bruno & Nussbaum, asked him to lie under oath and destroy evidence. Russo tried to discredit Mingels on cross-examination but unsuccessfully. Mingels looking straight in Russo’s eyes repeated: "Mr. Russo, you told me to lie under oath."
Gusrae Kaplan, a small Wall Street firm specializing in securities quarrels, is defending Inna Gudavadze against allegations that she murdered her husband, Georgian billionaire and philanthropist to grab his fortune and out of jealousy for another woman. (Gudavadze, Berezovsky, Implicated in Death of Badri Patarkatsishvili, Lawsuit Alleges, MT-Newswire, 1/22/10).
Recently, a U.S. District Court Judge David Homer has held Gusrae Kaplan's and Martin Russo's client Timothy McGinn in contempt for his involvement with a new financial firm, in violation of his preliminary injunction, as reported by The Business Review (Judge Holds McGinn in Contempt).
Judge, who is hearing the SEC’s civil suit against McGinn and former McGinn Smith & Co. Inc. partner David Smith, said McGinn violated a preliminary injunction when he set out to raise $543,000 through Rensselaer-based Security Alarm Credit. Homer enjoined McGinn from taking part in the note offering and from participating in any securities sales without prior court approval. He also froze Security Alarm’s assets and ordered McGinn to return any funds that may have been collected from investors.
Presiding judge Bernard Fried appeared to be somewhat bewildered by Mingel’s testimony. In the preceding week, Fried was clearly signaling that he was leaning towards Gusrae Kaplan repeatedly scolding Little Rest Twelve’s lawyers. Little Rest Twelve is a holding company of Ajna Bar, a world renowned New York restaurant, formerly Buddha Bar NYC. Buddha Bar had changed its name to "Ajna" in late 2008 but many still refer to it by its original name.
Mingel’s blistering testimony comes on the heels of a testimony of Gusrae Kaplan's Joseph Gil, a former controller of Buddha Bar. On direct examination by Russo, Gil’s testimony appeared to be fatal to the defenders of the current owners of Little Rest Twelve. However, on cross-examination, vigorously questioned by Little Rest Twelve’s lawyers Emanuel Zeltser and Bruce Katz, Gil admitted that he lied regarding almost all critical points of his direct testimony. "So you swore to God that you were telling the truth?" - Katz demanded. "Yes" Gil softly replied. Judge Fried on several occasions instructed Gil to keep his voice up. To repeated questions, why Gil made false statement during his direct testimony, Gil by and large replied "I don’t know".
Gil admitted that prior to his testimony, he entered into a secret agreement with Gusrae Kaplan. Russo then presented this agreement to the court. The agreement essentially provided that Gil must testify in accordance with the affidavit attached to the agreement in exchange for approximately $17,000 in cash and consulting agreement with Buddha Bar providing for the payment to Gil of$150 an hour for "consulting services".
Mingels testified that Gil spoke to him about his forthcoming testimony and said that he was asked to lie by Gusrae Kaplan’s lawyers. Mingels told him not to do that.
Prior to Gil’s testimony, Gusrae Kaplan called their own client Jean-Yves Haouzi. As Gil, Haouzi appeared confident on direct questioning by Russo. He testified that he was the "sole director" of Little Rest Twelve since its inception and that Buddha’s current CEO Nina Zajic has never been a director of the company. On cross-examination however, Buddha’s lawyers got Haouzi to admit that in 2008, signed and swore to the truth of a counterclaim where Haouzi alleged that in reality Zajic was a director of the company. Asked by judge Fried to explain these inconsistencies Haouzi said "You would have to ask my attorney" and "I mean I don’t know exactly ... Because I have to speak with my lawyers" referring to Gusrae Kaplan.
As reported here, on March 31, 2010, Martin Russo a member of Gusrae Kaplan, leading a pack of 20 armed men raided premises of Ajna Bar, threatened employees and locked out Ajna's management. When police arrived at the scene, Russo managed to persuade them to leave by representing himself as "lawyer" for the landmark restaurant. Russo also fooled the cops by alluding that he had "court order" permitting him to raid the place, according to court documents. On April 2, 2010, judge Fried signed an order referring Russo and Haouzi to Manhattan District Attorney's Office for investigation (See: Supreme Court Judge Refers Inna Gudavadze's Lawyer for Criminal Investigation).
Judge Fried has a difficult task. Suborning perjury by a lawyer is grave offense and may have significant consequences on lawyer's career. "The allegations made in the open court by Mingels, combined with the preceding testimonies of Haouzi and Gil, present serious and credible evidence requiring the judge at least to hold an immediate hearing on the matter" said one observer - - we’ll just need to wait and see what he does.
Gusrae Kaplan did not immediately reply to our calls for comment. Mr. Zeltser’s said through his secretary that he could not comment on ongoing court proceedings.