Russian Oligarch Alisher Usmanov 'Transferred Assets to Irrevocable Trusts,' May Evade Sanctions

Russian Oligarch Alisher Usmanov 'Transferred Assets to Irrevocable Trusts,' May Evade Sanctions
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and founder of USM Holdings Alisher Usmanov (L) look on at the control center of the new workshop producing hot briquetted iron at Lebedinsky Mining and Processing Combine (Metalloinvest MC LLC) in the Belgorod Region, Russia, on July 14, 2017. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
Katabella Roberts

Russian Oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who has been sanctioned by a string of western nations, no longer owns many of his former properties his spokesperson has said, potentially meaning they will avoid such penalties.

The Uzbek-born Russian business magnate has been sanctioned by The European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Switzerland due to his close ties with the Kremlin.

The move came in response to Russia invading Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what Russian President Vladimir Putin has called a "special military operation."

But a spokesperson for Usmanov told The Guardian that the majority of the billionaire’s UK properties, as well as his yacht, had been "long ago transferred into irrevocable trusts."

"From that point on, Mr. Usmanov did not own them, nor was he able to manage them or deal with their sale, but could only use them on a rental basis," the spokesperson said. "Mr. Usmanov withdrew from the beneficiaries of the trusts, donating his beneficial rights to his family."

Usmanov's spokesperson declined to tell Guardian when the trusts were established but told Reuters that all of his properties were transferred in 2006.
A spokesperson for the businessman also told Sky News that the move had "nothing to do with sanctions and was determined by estate planning."

The Epoch Times has contacted a spokesperson for Usmanov for comment.

Despite this, the UK government maintains that the sanctions against Usmanov will still be effective, citing its coordination with other Western nations in targeting those with close ties to Putin.

"We remain confident these sanctions will have a significant impact on Usmanov. I think of that there's no doubt," a spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

"And, crucially, when it comes to sanctions, we are wherever possible moving as one with our Western allies, so those that may be seeking to move assets will find they're not welcome in the vast majority of the Western world."

Responding to critics of the government who say it was too slow to sanction Russian individuals linked to Putin, the spokesman said that the UK is "a country that respects the rule of law," and "we make sure that we have done all the requisite steps in order to make these legally enforceable."

Usmanov—who has ties to the Arsenal and Everton football clubs—owns a 49 percent stake in USM, a Russian investment group that controls Metalloinvest, one of the world’s largest iron ore producers, and telecommunications company MegaFon.

He is the sixth-richest Russian, with a fortune of $19.5 billion according to Bloomberg’s wealth index, and also has stakes in and Uber Technologies and controls Kommersant, a Russian newspaper.

According to the UK government, Usmanov owns Beechwood House in Highgate, worth an estimated £48 million, and the 16th century Sutton Place estate in Surrey.
He is also believed to own a villa in Sardinia and a 512-foot (156-meter) yacht which is widely regarded as the largest motor yacht in the world by gross tonnage.

That yacht, the Dilbar, was seized by authorities in Germany earlier this month where it had been undergoing refitting since late October, according to multiple reports.

E.U. officials have branded Usmanov a "pro-Kremlin oligarch with particularly close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin" and said he has "been referred to as one of Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs."

"According to FinCEN files he paid $6 million to Vladimir Putin’s influential adviser Valentin Yumashev. Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia and former president and prime minister of Russia, benefited from the personal use of luxurious residences controlled by Mr. Usmanov," officials said.

Usmanov has said the sanctions against him were "unfair" and claimed he had become the "target of restrictive measures" by the E.U.

"The reasons employed to justify the sanctions are a set of false and defamatory allegations damaging my honor, dignity, and business reputation. I will use all legal means to protect my honor and reputation," he said.