Russian sanctions provoked the sale and freezing of assets of the British oligarch

Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea, waves to fans after the UEFA Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Estadio do Dragao stadium on May 29, 2021 in Porto, Portugal.

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Russian billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich has begun selling off his most valuable assets in the UK in the latest move by Vladimir Putin’s inner circle to distance themselves from their wealth as Western sanctions kick in.

The 55-year-old tycoon on Wednesday announced sale of his expensive football club Chelsea in England, the crown jewel in a string of billion-dollar listings that have so far escaped the web of sanctions imposed by Western governments in an attempt to stop Putin’s war.

The club, which Abramovich bought for £140m in 2003, is expected to be sold for around £3bn (US$4bn). The billionaire is said to be writing off the club’s £1.5bn debt.

Meanwhile, a portfolio of London properties, including a £150m Kensington mansion and a £22m Chelsea Waterfront penthouse in 2018, could reportedly bring in a combined £200m.

The sale came a day before Western allies on Thursday added new names to their lists of oligarchs under sanctions. United States as well as Great Britain targeted at Alisher Usmanov, including those with close ties to the Kremlin. As a result of the sanctions, their assets will be frozen and travel restricted.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Abramovich, who has so far avoided taking a political stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, said the move was in the club’s “best interest” and added that all net proceeds from the sale would be donated to war victims. This follows his decision last week to hand over management of Chelsea to a charitable foundation.

However, the timing of the sale is noteworthy: British opposition Labor Party MP Chris Bryant said Abramovich was “afraid of sanctions” and was liquidating his assets.

The pursuit of the assets of the oligarchs

Abramovich, whose Worth $12.5 billion originally obtained from the sale of Russian state assets after the collapse of the Soviet Union, has so far avoided the sanctions that hit some of his colleagues.

But there are signs that the tide may be changing as Western authorities strengthen their resolve to target Russia’s wealthy elite as the war enters its second week.

Property being sold by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in Kensington, London, on March 2, 2022.

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On Thursday, French officials seized a yacht they say is linked to Rosneft chief Igor Sechin as part of Europe’s ongoing efforts to identify and seize luxury assets. Similarly, the US has organized a task force to seize the yachts, luxury apartments and private jets of wealthy Russians linked to Putin.

However, the clock is ticking as the targeted oligarchs move their assets to overseas territories and build their wealth in cryptocurrencies.

Vagit Alekperov, president of Russia’s Lukoil, is sailing his yacht to Montenegro as at least three yachts owned by other Russian billionaires approach the Maldives, according to a CNBC analysis.

Not fast enough to move

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