German authorities seize $600m yacht of Putin-linked billionaire Alisher Usmanov

Everton FC has also cut ties with billionaire

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Thursday 03 March 2022 05:27
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Bob Seely names UK lawyers working for Russian oligarchs, questions their morality

German authorities have seized a massive yacht belonging to billionaire Alisher Usmanov at a shipyard in Hungary, part of the European Union’s effort to crack down on associates of Vladimir Putin amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The craft, a 512-foot boat called the Dilbar, is worth a reported $600m, according to Forbes, which reported the seizure.

The yacht, one of the largest ever built, features a 25-metre swimming pool, two helipads, an on-ship garden, and requires a crew of 80 people to keep it running.

The billionaire once sent a video gloating that, “I live in happiness,” to jailed Russian anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny, seemingly recorded from onboard.

Earlier this week, the EU announced it was freezing Mr Usmanov’s assets, calling him a  “pro-Kremlin oligarch with particularly close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin,” a man who is “considered to be one of Russia’s businessmen-officials, who were entrusted with servicing financial flows, but their positions depend on the will of the president.”

Premier League team Everton FC has also dropped sponsorship deals with the oligarch, who previously owned part of Arsenal.

Companies belonging to Mr Usamanov, a close associate of Everton owner Farhad Moshiri, sponsored Everton’s training ground and various kits for the men’s and women’s teams. They also retained the £30m naming rights for Everton’s proposed new stadium.

“Everyone at Everton remains shocked and saddened by the appalling events unfolding in Ukraine. This tragic situation must end as soon as possible, and any further loss of life must be avoided,” the club said in a statement, adding that it offers its “full support” to Vitalii Mykolenko, a Ukrainian national who plays left-back.

Mr Usmanov has decried the financial penalties against him.

“I believe such a decision is unfair and the reasons employed to justify the sanctions are a set of false and defamatory allegations damaging my honour, dignity and business reputation,” Mr Usmanov said earlier this week in a statement. “I will use all legal means to protect my honour and reputation.”

Ms Usmanov, known by the nickname “the hard man of Russia,” is one of the richest men in Russia and the world, worth an estimated $14.2bn.

He made his first fortune selling plastic bags, a highly sought after commodity towards the end of the Soviet Union, and has since acquired a major stake in the Metalloinvest minerals group, as well as made investments in Facebook, consumer electronics company Xiaomi, and VK, a Russian social media network.

The luxuries enjoyed by Russian oligarchs have become a key target for Western authorities as they seek to inflict financial pain on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

During his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday in Washington, US president Joe Biden warned he was coming after the yachts and high-end properties of Kremlin-linked businessmen.

“The US Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs,” Mr Biden said. “We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts your luxury apartments your private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.”

According to analysis of maritime data, yachts linked to Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarchs who associate with him have been sailing out of reach of US authorities in the days surrounding the Ukraine invasion.

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