Italy’s Going After Russian Oligarchs’ Yachts With a Vengeance

Italy announced the most aggressive moves against rich Russians’ ultra-luxurious property yet.

Italy is clamping down hard on Russian oligarchs’ ultra-luxurious property. 

Over the weekend, the country’s law enforcement seized $156 million worth of super-pricey boats and real estate belonging to at least five of Russia’s sanctioned, super-rich elite, according to a list distributed by the Italian prime minister’s office to Reuters. 

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Russian billionaires have famously plunked down hundreds of millions to enjoy the best the Italian Riviera has to offer. Now, Italy is biting back, with more aggressive moves against them than any other Western country has yet publicly announced. 

Italian police seized a 215-foot yacht named “Lady M,” owned by Russian steel magnate Alexey Mordashov, tweeted Ferdinando Giugliano, a media adviser to Italy’s prime minister.  

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

Italy’s tax police also froze a yacht named “Lena,” which Giugliano said belongs to oilman and reputed close Putin confidant Gennady Timchenko. The vessel is worth an estimated $55 million, according to Giugliano. The country’s tax officials also froze a lavish, 17th-century property in Tuscany called “Villa Lazzareschi,” worth more than $3 million and owned by Russian parliamentarian Oleg Savchenko, Giugliano said. 

Officials also seized a villa on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia from the billionaire metals magnate Alisher Usmanov, Reuters reported

And a number of properties in the picturesque northern Italian region of Como, worth a combined $9 million, were reportedly confiscated from Russian TV personality Vladimir Soloviev. 

Soloviev has raged against Europe for going after his property after he was officially sanctioned. 

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“I was told that Europe is a citadel of rights, that everything is permitted, that’s what they said,” Soloviev recently said on one of his broadcasts, according to the Daily Beast. “I bought it, paid crazy amount of taxes, I did everything. And suddenly someone makes a decision that this journalist is now on the list of sanctions. And right away it affects your real estate. Wait a minute. But you told us that Europe has sacred property rights!”

The seizures are the latest front in the wide-ranging economic and financial conflict between Russia and Western countries, which erupted after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The U.S., UK, and European Union have vowed to freeze and seize assets belonging to the rich coterie of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Bill Browder, an American who once invested heavily in Russian assets before becoming a prominent Kremlin critic, hailed the seizures. 

“This is certainly something that Vladimir Putin never could have expected in his worst nightmares,” Browder told VICE News. “In the game of Battleship, it’s a direct hit.”

The assets are more than a fancy pile of luxurious boats and villas, Browder said: They represent a potential store of funds for Russia, now that the country’s economy is teetering on the brink of collapse under the weight of rapidly expanding Western economic sanctions. 

“The main benefit of sanctioning the oligarchs is to freeze the money offshore that Putin might be able to rely on in the future to fund his war effort,” Browder said. 

But effectively shutting down that stream of income would require expanding the current sanctions lists significantly, he said. 

“The U.S. and allies have frozen the central bank reserves of Russia, and now they need to sanction the informal reserves of Russia which are the assets of the oligarchs,” Browder said. “To do that properly, they need to sanction a lot more oligarchs.”

Tagged:

Ukraine, italy, russia, Vladimir Putin, oligarchs, yachts, russian oligarchs, worldnews, world conflict

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