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Tags: russian sanction | oligarch

Many Oligarchs' Spoils Shielded in Shell Companies

Abramovich, Roman
The former London home of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich in Kensington Palace Gardens, London (Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 16 March 2022 03:57 PM EDT

U.S. and other governments looking to seize the yachts, mansions, cryptocurrency and offshore accounts of sanctioned Russian oligarchs may be in for a long wait.

The vast majority of Russian billionaires’ properties are protected by shell companies, according to Politico.

Freezing Russian assets in the United States, as the U.S. Treasury Department has done in response to Putin’s invasion, is a relatively manageable task. However, the process of seizing and taking over properties is more involved, Politico explained, elaborating that legal procedures can take years.

Seizing real estate of Russian oligarchs’ in the United States is further complicated by the requirement to prove the property was connected to a crime committed, as well as the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures of property by the government.

Michael Parker, who leads the anti-money laundering division at Washington based Ferrari & Associates, told Politico, “The desire to go and seize assets does not trump the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. These cases need to be built. There has to be a showing of some sort of underlying theory of forfeiture. There has to be a reason that they are forfeited. The mere fact that somebody the United States has said is a ‘target’ isn’t enough to form a basis of seizure under U.S. law.”

‘Worst-Kept Secret’

Despite the talk of “Londongrad,” referring to wealthy Russians’ penchant for living and banking in London, oligarchs have bought up high-end real estate in major U.S. cities, as well.  “Throughout the late 2000s and the early 2010s, the growing presence of fabulously wealthy Russian oligarchs in markets such as Manhattan, Miami and Los Angeles was the real estate industry’s worst-kept secret,” Newsweek reports.

A $88 million New York penthouse owned by 22-year-old Ekaterina Rybokovleva, aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska’s $42 million purchase of an apartment off Fifth Avenue in 2008, and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich’s mansion, also off Fifth Avenue, are just three multi-million properties owned by oligarchs in New York. “It seems unlikely that the U.S. government will grab all the assets of all the rich Russians out there, some of whom are now American citizens — but what assets they are!” Curbed exclaimed.

New York is not the only haven for Russian money. Wealthy Russians own dozens of properties in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, an area nicknamed “Little Moscow.” Ilhor Kolomoisky, who has been named by the State Department for corruption, has been described by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as “Cleveland’s biggest landlord.”

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

Manhattan’s Borough President, Mark Levine, has joined Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Democrat state Sen. Brad Hoylman in urging the state legislature in Albany to pass a law forcing more accountability for owners of limited liability companies (LLCs).

“Most, if not all, of these properties were purchased via LLCs to shield the identity of the owners, a practice not atypical in luxury apartment sales, further complicating the seizure process,” Politico explained.

Erin Sykes, chief economist for Nest Seekers, a real estate agency in Palm Beach, Florida, explains to Newsmax Finance that oligarchs are now taking new measures to hide their assets since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. “Seizing property can, in fact, take years. In order to avoid property being seized, many Russians have moved their yachts and planes from the U.S. to Mexico, where it’s estimated that [thousands of] Russians have already sought asylum.

“Russians do not need visas to go to Mexico. Because Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has declined to impose economic sanctions on Russia, many Russians are moving big-ticket items across the border and/or selling out of U.S. real estate and into Mexican real estate.”

Internationally, Russian oligarchs are attempting similar tactics. The Maldives, a small island chain southwest of India, has also become a top location of oligarchs trying to avoid sanctions, according to Bloomberg.

With the world so aghast at Vladimir Putin’s senseless war in Ukraine and growing news of so many rich Russians running for cover around the world, it is inevitable these pariahs will look for new places to try and duck and cover.

© 2023 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.

U.S. and other governments looking to seize the yachts, mansions, cryptocurrency and offshore accounts of sanctioned Russian oligarchs may be in for a long wait. The vast majority of Russian billionaires' properties are protected by shell companies.
russian sanction, oligarch
Wednesday, 16 March 2022 03:57 PM
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