Report: Abramovich placed kids in control of billions in assets to avoid sanctions
Russian-Israeli oligarch Roman Abramovich is reported to have rapidly reshuffled his assets in the early days of the war in Ukraine, making his children the beneficiaries of his trusts in an apparent attempt to evade international sanctions.
A trove of files shared anonymously with The Guardian showed how Abramovich – the former owner of England’s Chelsea football club and once Israel’s richest individual – turned his seven children into billionaires almost overnight in February 2022.
Sanctions experts told the newspaper in the report published on Friday that the financial moves will make it harder for countries to sanction Abramovich, who is accused of having close ties to the Kremlin and whom Moscow has to thank for much of his wealth. Unlike international sanctions against Putin’s aides, punishments against oligarchs have largely avoided targeting their families.
The assets transferred to Abramovich’s children – the youngest of whom is just nine – include luxury properties along with a fleet of super-yachts, helicopters and super-planes, The Guardian said. The ten offshore trusts in Jersey and Cyprus that were transferred to his children hold assets worth at least $4 billion, although the total value could be much higher, the report said.
The FBI identified this strategy by Abramovich last year when the agency said he had rearranged his beliefs in an attempt to prevent the US from seizing two of his planes.
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Files leaked to The Guardian suggest the effort was much wider, however.
The Bermuda-flagged luxury yacht Solaris owned by Roman Abramovich sails near the Aegean seaside resort of Bodrum, Turkey, March 21, 2022. (IHA via AP)
However, sanctions experts conceded that while seemingly unethical, the realignment of assets does not appear to have broken any laws.
The measures taken by Abramovich appear to allow him to legally declare that he does not control the assets of the offshore trusts and that he is even prohibited from exercising such control from here on out.
Abramovich was pictured on Tuesday visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, reportedly for his son’s bar mitzvah. He has been seen in Israel several times since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year.
The oligarch has already been sanctioned by Britain and the EU for allegedly supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Moscow. Last month, Canada also said it would sanction Abramovich and confiscate assets linked to him.
Analysts have said the Russian invasion has been a personal disaster for Abramovich, wiping billions from the value of his assets.
According to an updated list of the richest people published by The Times newspaper in May, the sanctions knocked Abramovich from his position as Israel’s richest man, now with a net worth of $6.9 billion, down from $14.5 billion last year. past.
Russian Roman Abramovich, center, listens to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the meeting of Russian and Ukrainian delegations for talks in Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, March 29, 2022 (Turkish Presidency via AP)
At the end of March 2022, Abramovich participated in peace talks organized by Turkey between Russia and Ukraine, which did not yield significant results.
He obtained Israeli citizenship in 2018, although it is not clear how long he spends in the country.
Controversially, he also holds a Portuguese passport claiming to be of Sephardic Jewish descent.
Abramovich amassed a fortune in Russia’s oil and aluminum industries after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 2005, Russian state energy giant Gazprom paid $13 billion for the Abramovich-controlled oil company Sibneft, allowing Putin’s Kremlin to regain state influence in the profitable energy industry.
Agencies contributed to this report.
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