The war in Ukraine.  Did Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich protect his assets from sanctions?

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, just before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, reallocated billions of dollars in funds to his children. In this way, he protected his assets from a possible asset freeze in connection with the sanctions against Russia. This was reported by the Guardian newspaper, which received documents stolen from a Cypriot company.

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Files stolen by hackers from the Cypriot company MeritServus, which The Guardian has accessed, indicate that the oligarch’s funds in foreign accounts in early February 2022 were quickly reorganized. Abramovich passed his estate on to his seven children, the youngest of whom is nine years old. They have been the recipients of at least $4 billion in funds, although the total could have been much higher.

A sweeping reorganization of Abramovich’s finances began just days after he threatened sanctions against the Russian oligarch in the event of an invasion of Ukraine.

It is also possible that the children of the oligarch are the actual owners of luxury real estate, a fleet of luxury yachts, helicopters and private jets.

Sanctions experts said a sweeping reorganization of assets could complicate efforts to sanction the oligarch and potentially thwart attempts to freeze assets previously thought to be owned by Russia.

Read also: What is the relationship of the former Chelsea owner with the Russian invasion?

As The Guardian points out, the reports may raise the question of whether the assets of Abramovich’s children should also be frozen. Unlike the family members of some of Putin’s closest advisers, many of the sanctioned oligarch’s families avoid restrictions.

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The UK and EU governments recognized Abramovich as a pro-Kremlin oligarch and slapped sanctions on him in March 2022 for allegedly benefiting from close ties with Putin. The Guardian reports that a Russian billionaire denied financial ties to the Kremlin and sued to invalidate EU funds. Abramovich, who holds Russian, Israeli and Portuguese citizenship, was not added to the US sanctions list.

The stolen documents reveal that Abramovich used opaque trust structures for decades to protect his wealth in tax havens. According to the British newspaper, they also refer to the challenges that Western countries must overcome through these complex structures in order to impose sanctions.

Abramovich’s financial assets have been under intense scrutiny since the invasion. Authorities in Jersey tried to freeze $7 billion in assets in the Channel Islands, while the United States seized two of his private jets for violating export controls.

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