Sanctions on Russia could hit US-linked oligarchs hard
Among the Russian oligarchs who could be slapped in a new round of sanctions following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a billionaire who owns the world’s largest yacht, named after his mother.
Alisher Usmanov, 68, is among a group of billionaires with assets in the West and close ties to Putin who could face economic sanctions as the Biden administration, the UK and the EU crack down on the inner circle of the Kremlin, following Putin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine. earlier this week.
President Biden on Tuesday targeted two Russian banks and three oligarchs with alleged ties to the Kremlin – and vowed to crack down on other members of Putin’s inner circle who took advantage of their ties to him. Biden has yet to name Usmanov or anyone other than those announced on Tuesday.
Many members of Putin’s circle live lavish lifestyles outside of Russia, spending millions on luxury homes, yachts and celebrity parties. It is a situation that also makes them vulnerable to economic pressure as their assets are increasingly tied to the West.
Those sanctioned by the US Treasury Department will lose access to the US financial system as well as all of their assets that are under US jurisdiction, though experts say applying economic pressure against the oligarchs won’t do much -thing to influence Putin.
“I think sanctioning the oligarchs is a good thing to do, but it’s not like they’re about to phone and sway Putin,” said Chris Miller, assistant professor of international history at the University. ‘Tufts University and Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. in Washington, DC. “In terms of sanctions, the important thing is to target the whole economy, the banks and the energy sector.”
For Usmanov, whose net worth exceeds $16 billion, that includes his 512-foot superyacht “Ona” (formerly called “Dilbar”, the name of his late mother) which features a large garden, two helipads and an 82-foot swimming pool. feet. Last year in Britain, a group of 24 MPs from several different parties urged the country’s foreign secretary to take action against a football club affiliated with Usmanov, which has close ties to Putin and allegedly acted as his private business advisor.
The letter, which also demanded action against a club owned by billionaire Roman Abramovich, came after imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny included them on his list of 35 oligarchs who would be among “key enablers and beneficiaries of Russian kleptocracy, with significant connections/assets”. in the west.” Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation urged the European Union to sanction everyone on its list last year.
Margaret Hodge, a member of the opposition Labor Party, told parliament earlier this week that Abramovich and Usmanov should face sanctions, describing them as “kleptocrats who robbed the Russian people”.
Abramovich has denied Navalny’s claims, and both men have previously insisted their businesses are legitimate.
Usmanov, who has financial interests in Everton FC, a Premier League soccer club in the UK, also has extensive holdings in London, where he owns two sprawling mansions with a combined price tag of $300 million. He also owns properties in Sardinia, Munich and Monaco, according to reports.
Usmanov is said to have family ties to Putin. He is married to Irina Viner, a rhythmic gymnastics coach who helped Alina Kabaeva – widely considered Putin’s girlfriend – win gold at the 2004 Olympics.
Meanwhile, Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who was put on the US sanctions list in 2018, has a large footprint in New York, with properties in Greenwich Village and the Upper East Side.
Last year, the FBI raided a 23,000 square foot mansion in Washington, DC, and a $4.5 million Greenwich Village townhouse on Gay Street that allegedly belong to Deripaska’s relatives. The reason for their attendance was unclear, according to a report from NBC News. A spokesperson told the network that the agency was conducting “at-home law enforcement activity,” but offered no details.
A company controlled by Deripaska, 54, also bought a townhouse on East 64th Street in 2008 for $42.5 million, according to public records. The five-story mansion, located between Madison and Fifth Avenues, was frozen by the US Treasury Department as part of Deripaska’s US assets in 2018.
Deripaska, who made his $4.1 billion fortune in aluminum, construction and agriculture in Russia, has also been investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for his alleged ties to former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. He denied any wrongdoing.
But his assets were frozen mainly because of his alleged links to Putin and organized crime in Russia. He sued the Treasury Department for penalties, but a judge dismissed his lawsuit. Deripaska appealed the decision.
He was formerly married to Polina Yumasheva, the daughter of Boris Yeltsin’s top adviser, Valentin Yumashev.
And then there’s Abramovich, the owner of England’s Chelsea Football Club, who is worth $13.8 billion, according to Forbes. The 55-year-old is known for throwing a star-studded New Year’s Eve party aboard his $500million mega yacht in St. Barths.
Abramovich was married to art collector Dasha Zhukova and funneled more than $90 million in New York real estate to her — including three Upper East Side townhouses they turned into a huge property on East 75th Street – when they parted ways in 2017. It was billed as the tallest single-family home in Manhattan.
Last year, the tycoon, who made his fortune in Russian mining interests, became a Portuguese citizen, based on a law that grants citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews.
Portugal announced last month it was investigating naturalization after activists and politicians complained the oligarch is using citizenship to gain a foothold in Europe.
On Tuesday, Biden unveiled the “first tranche” of sanctions targeting two Kremlin-controlled banks, VEB and PSB, as well as oligarchs Petr Fradkov, Denis Bortnikov and Vladimir Kiriyenko.
The Biden administration has made little disclosure of which billionaires it plans to target in the future if Putin does not retreat to Ukraine.