Sanctions Against Oligarchs

Alexei Kuzmichev : Russian Billionaire Detained By French Police In Tax And Sanctions

Alexey Kuzmichev, a Russian businessman, founded LetterOne and Alfa Group. He was a stakeholder in VimpelCom, Alfa-Bank, and X5 Retail Group. In 2013, Kuzmichev sold his stake in TNK-BP to Rosneft for $2.5 billion. Forbes magazine rated him as the 138th world’s richest person in 2013. In March 2023, he sold his 16.32% stake in Alfa Bank.

Alexei Kuzmichev : Sanctioned Russian Tycoon Detained in France

Sanctioned Russian Tycoon
Sanctioned Russian Tycoon

Alexei Kuzmichev, a co-founder of Russian finance consortium Alfa Group, has been detained in Saint-Tropez, France, for alleged money laundering, tax evasion, and violating international sanctions. French financial prosecutors confirmed that no charges had been brought but Kuzmichev was still in custody. The investigation is being carried out by France’s anti-corruption office. The Kremlin spokesman has told Russian news agencies that it would help protect Kuzmichev’s rights as a Russian citizen. Kuzmichev is listed as the 389th richest person in the world, worth around $6.4bn.

The European Union imposed sanctions on him in March 2022, shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. French authorities impounded two yachts owned by Kuzmichev, La Petite Ourse and La Grande Ourse, which are still subject to an asset freeze. Kuzmichev was also on the board of UK-based investment firm LetterOne, but resigned in March 2022. He is one of the few Russian billionaires to have remained in Europe since the invasion of Ukraine and is reported to have launched an appeal to lift the EU sanctions against him, with a decision due in mid-November.

France arrested Russian Tycoon in Tax , sanctions Probe

France arrested Russian Tycoon
France arrested Russian Tycoon

French police have arrested Russian billionaire Alexei Kuzmichev, co-founder of the Alfa Group, on suspicion of tax fraud and violating EU sanctions. The European Union placed Kuzmichev on a list of Russian nationals targeted by sanctions in March 2022, following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Alfa Bank, in which Kuzmichev holds a large stake, is one of Russia’s biggest tax payers and the businessman counts among “the most influential people in Russia” with close links to President Vladimir Putin.

Kuzmichev is now being questioned and may be sent to an investigating magistrate to decide whether to press charges. Prosecutors in France have opened over a dozen probes since the invasion of Ukraine into the acquisition of property in France by Russians who have flocked to Paris, the Cote d’Azur, and the Alps. Kuzmichev has launched an appeal to get the EU sanctions against him lifted, with a decision due on November 15. Forbes magazine lists Kuzmichev, 61, as the 61st richest person in the world with a total fortune of $6.4 billion.

British authorities raided the home of Mikhail Fridman in London in 2022 but dropped the investigation 10 months later. The Spanish National Court has shelved a corruption inquiry against Fridman for lack of evidence in his low-cost purchase of a technology company.

Key Facts:

  • Kuzmichev was reportedly detained on Monday morning for questioning regarding allegations of tax evasion, money laundering, and breaking international sanctions, according to a report from Politico and Reuters on Tuesday from France’s Financial Prosecutor’s office (PNF).
  • The billionaire has not been charged and was still being held on Tuesday, according to Reuters. The European Union views him as one of the most powerful individuals in Russia with “well established ties” to Putin.
  • According to PNF, the operation included searches of several locations connected to Kuzmichev, including the oligarch’s Paris mansion, as Le Monde reported.

Key Background

Alexei Kuzmichev
Alexei Kuzmichev

Sanctions imposed by the EU and the UK on Kuzmichev in 2022 were a result of his connections to the Russian leadership after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. A year later, the United States imposed sanctions on him as part of an initiative to “hold accountable those who enable and profit from Russia’s war against Ukraine,” a plot device that has also targeted other wealthy Russians with strong connections. Kuzmichev’s two yachts had previously been the target of France, who had frozen them in March 2022.

However, the oligarch won the case in court because of procedural mistakes made during the seizure, which resulted in the release of both yachts. The victory is mostly symbolic because Kuzmichev is unlikely to be able to move the boats because the EU’s embargo still applies to both of them.

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