Putin's banker Sergei Pugachev loses High Court battle to have asset freeze lifted

 

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The Independent Online

The Russian tycoon once dubbed “Putin’s banker”, who lives in London with his English TV presenter partner Alexandra Tolstoy, has failed in his attempts to have a £1bn worldwide freeze on his assets lifted.

The Judge’s decision today to uphold the previous asset freeze order means Sergei Pugachev and his family will have to continue getting by on the £10,000 a week the High Court had previously allowed for their living expenses.

Mr Pugachev is being sued by Russia’s state liquidator over allegations that he took hundreds of millions of dollars of Russian taxpayers’ money when the government bailed out the bank he ran, which was called Mezhprombank.

He denies the allegations, saying they are politically motivated and were all part of a conspiracy by the state to strip him of his two shipyards in St Petersburg which his bank put up as security against the bailout loans.

But a High Court order earlier this year froze his assets to prevent him “dissipating” his wealth.

Mr Justice Mann’s judgment today upheld that ruling, saying: “I find that there is a sufficient case in favour of a risk of dissipation to justify the grant of a freezing order.”

Ms Tolstoy has given interviews in which she complains that the £10,000 allowance is barely sufficient for the upkeep of the family’s castle in France. They live in two London homes including a £12m house in Battersea. Mr Pugachev claims he is down to his last $70m.

Mr Pugachev said in a statement: “Justice Mann was required to rule on narrow technicalities and his decision to uphold the injunction in no way legitimises the fabricated criminal proceedings against me in Russia.  I have strong faith in the English justice system and I will continue to vigorously pursue all the options open to me.”

He repeated his claim that “the Russian government expropriated my shipyard assets”, claiming that the Russian Deposit Insurance Agency – the state liquidator – requested the asset seizure in order to pressurise him to stop revealing its role in the “state raid of my assets.”

In a statement, the liquidator said: “The DIA welcomes the judgment and will continue during 2015 to pursue its claims against Mr Pugachev, which will be determined by the Russian courts, and to seek to recover assets for the estate of Mezhprombank.”

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