French retailer Auchan is defending its ownership of land housing one of its Russian retail complexes after local authorities claimed it belonged to the Institute of Agricultural Sciences.

The land, a 50-hectare plot housing Auchan food, hardware and sporting goods outlets in the Moscow suburb of Mytishchy, was owned by the Russian Agricultural Academy in 2000.

In accordance with a development programme for the Moscow area, the land was then leased to the private sector.

In 2002, the French retailer opened the first European-owned hypermarket complex on the site.

“While Auchan is yet to hear of the full details of the case, the company believes that the land was purchased lawfully,” a source close to the situation told just-food.

Auchan declined to comment.

However, in a statement released by the National Resource Ministry, the Russian body claimed that the land was seized illegally.
“I trust that the illegally seized land will be returned to the government, and the people responsible for the illegal use of the space will be punished,” said Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of the environmental agency.