Assets of Exiled Russian Businessman Seized in France
France seized US$17 million in real-estate from the Russian businessman and ex politician Boris Berezovsky at Russia’s request, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office said on Saturday.
In Russia Berezovsky was sentenced in absentia for fraud and money laundering. Berezovsky, now living in London, fled Russia in 2000 and was granted political asylum by the United Kingdom in 2003.
“I don't know anything about my property being seized. [Prosecutors] were talking about my yacht being seized, but then it turned out the yacht was not mine,” Berezovsky told Interfax news on Saturday. He was referring to an earlier case in 2011 when, at Russia’s request, the French authorities seized two yachts believed to be Berezovsky’s. It was later ruled that the yachts did not belong to Berezovsky.
In early April, a Moscow court ordered Berezovsky and his business partner Yuly Dubov to pay US$34 million in damages to the Samara Region government in the southwest Russia. They were found guilty in absentia in 2009 of defrauding the state-owned AvtoVAZ car plant in Samara Region through Berezovsky’s LogoVAZ car dealership in 1994. The plant sustained a loss of several thousand cars.
In 2007, Berezovsky was sentenced in absentia by the Savyolovsky District Court to six years in prison for embezzling US$7.3 million from Russia’s largest airline, Aeroflot. Berezovsky was a major shareholder in Andava Swiss, a company used to defraud Aeroflot, RAPSI news reports. In March Aeroflot sued Berezovsky in the UK, asking a British court to force Berezovsky and a former Aeroflot executive Nikolai Glushkov to pay back US$24.3 million.
In October, Berezovsky sued the Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich in the London's Commercial Court for allegedly intimidating him into selling his shares in the Russian oil company Sibneft for £800 million (US$1.3 billion). Berezovsky claimed that this amount is far below the value of the stocks, and asked for US$4.8 billion in damages from Abramovich. However, Abramovich claimed that Berezovsky was not his business partner, and that he was only paid for his services as a “political godfather.” Although the trial is finished, the court has not issued a verdict yet.
A 2011 report by the Russian Prosecutor General's Office to the Federation Council states that Russia has seized over US$320 million abroad in property and bank accounts belonging to several people charged in high-profile crime cases. In addition to Berezovsky property, another US$300 million belonging to a man listed as Yu. Nikitin were seized in Switzerland, US$8 million from V. Mikhailov in Ukraine, and over US$1 million in Monaco from a person tied to the OAO Volgotanker fraud and money laundering case, Kyiv Post reported on Saturday.
Russia has issued several arrest warrants for Berezovsky and repeatedly sought his extradition from the UK, with no success.