Hit the wallet directly. Even the safe. This is the objective of the European Union, which has imposed numerous sanctions against Russia since the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. These include the asset freeze and the ban on entry to the territory of 680 people, including the Russian President, Vladimir Putin and 53 entities. Twenty-two additional people have been added to this blacklist, Wednesday March 2 indicates: the European Union.
These measures were initially introduced in March 2014 and were considerably tightened at the end of February 2022. They are valid until March 15, 2022 and are renewable every six months. But what are they actually and how are they applied? Franceinfo takes stock.
An asset freeze that could lead to an attachment
The “freeze” consists of the blocking of bank accounts and other financial assets, as specified on the European Data Protection Supervisor’s website† The asset freeze, explains the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets, aims to: “prevent any movement, transfer, alteration, use or manipulation of funds that would result in a change in their volume, amount, location, ownership”. So once frozen, it is impossible to sell real estate, transfer or withdraw money, sell stock. †land Freezing property or bank balances does not mean that we remove the property, recalls Olivier Dussopt.
“If we want the freeze to be effective, we need to know what’s frozen. This allows us to clearly distinguish what’s from the sanctioned people. If fraud is discovered during a freeze, we open proceedings”† Olivier Dussopt, Deputy Minister in charge of Public Accounts to the Minister of Economic Affairs, stated on franceinfo, Saturday, March 5.
But the sanction does not end with a freeze, warned Bruno Le Maire, economy minister, guest at franceinfo Tuesday, March 1. “We’re going to make sure it’s not just an asset freeze, it’s an asset seizure.”
However, in the case of a seizure, Bruno Le Maire notes,“You lose ownership of that apartment, that yacht, or that house.” But this entry cannot be made “only in the context of criminal proceedings at the end of which a final confiscation can be made”, specifies the Club des juristes, a specialized think tank. On the contrary, the asset freeze requires only an administrative procedure.
A French “task force” to locate assets
Bruno Le Maire did not specify how many people were affected by these sanctions in France. But he mentioned a “task force” (an intervention group) branch“to identify all Russian oligarchs” In France.
Several dozen agents, and up to several hundred, including those mobilized punctually throughout the territory, may be involved, for example, to carry out a seizure, the Ministry of Economy specifies to AFP. The aim: to identify financial assets (bank accounts, investments, etc.) and property (real estate, boats, etc.) belonging to more than 500 persons and entities subject to European sanctions.
In France, a first yacht immobilized in La Ciotat
France has so far blocked five boats: four freighters and a yacht. Symbols of the vast enrichment of high Russian political and economic leaders, yachts are part of the property they own abroad.
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The first immobilized yacht is L’Amore Vero, estimated at 110 million euros, seized on Thursday in the French port of La Ciotat (Bouches-du-Rhône). The 86-meter megayacht is owned by a company linked to the boss of Russian oil giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin. Igor Setchin is considered one of the leaders of the “siloviki” clan, which appoints senior officials of the security services, and has been a faithful of the Kremlin master since the 1990s.
Abroad, detentions and extension of sanctions to the family
In Italy. A first hunt, the Lady Mwas seized on Friday, the government said. It belongs to the Russian steel magnate Alexei Mordashov. This close friend of Vladimir Putin has been the target of EU sanctions. The value of the ship is estimated at 65 million euros. According to the Italian newspaper La Stampa (article in Italian)a second hunt, the Lenaproperty of Gennady Timchenko, billionaire co-founder of a commodity trading company (Guvnor), was seized in Sanremo, in the northwest of the country.
UK. In addition to the end of the “golden visa” system, which allowed very wealthy investors, especially Russians, to quickly obtain residence permits, the assets of Russian billionaires have been frozen. It is the case for Alisher Usmanov, in Uzbekistan, already sidelined by the English football club Everton. Former Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, head of the Russian development bank VEB, is also concerned. Access to British financial systems, as well as American ones, is blocked for them.
In America. The list of people targeted by the asset freeze was expanded Thursday. Shenow extends to the members of my family of every person involved, to avoid transferring their property to their loved ones. Amongst them, Nikolai Tokarev, CEO of Transneft, heavyweight in the oil and gas sector, and Sergei Chemezov, boss of defense industry conglomerate Rostec.
Joe Biden pledged during a speech to Congress on Tuesday evening the… “unlawful profit” Russian oligarchs and seize their “yachts, luxury apartments and private jets”. The US Department of Justice created a cell of investigators responsible for prosecution on Wednesday “corrupt Russian oligarchs” and those who help them evade sanctions, as well as confiscate their luxury goods.