France Seizes Two Oligarch Helicopters

French authorities last week froze two helicopters owned by sanctioned Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov on the French Riviera.

A spokesperson for the French Ministry of Economy and Finance confirmed that the two helicopters – an Airbus EC-175 and a Eurocopter EC-155 – worth $26 million, were frozen on March 22 and on March 25, respectively. 

France and Monaco sanctioned Usmanov on February 28 as part of wider European Union sanctions.

Usmanov, 68, has been called one of “Putin’s favorite oligarchs” and one of Russia’s richest people. 

According to reports, Usmanov was an early investor in Facebook, and his largest holding is a stake in iron ore and steel giant Metalloinvest, and he also owns shares in Chinese consumer electronics firm Xiaomi and smaller holdings in telecom, mining, and media. 

Usmanov, whose assets also include a superyacht worth between $600 million and $735 million, has been sanctioned by the UK, US, Switzerland, and the European Union, which Usmanov said were “false and defamatory allegations.”

A new Russian asset tracker showed that Usmanov listed known minimum asset value at $3.4 billion, including two homes, a large aircraft, and 27 bank accounts in Switzerland. 

However, Bloomberg Billionaire Index recorded Usmanov worth $19.6 billion. 

“Most of the property, including the two helicopters, have been transferred into irrevocable trusts. Mr. Usmanov does not own them,” the spokesperson said. 

“The process of moving property into family trusts started many years ago and had nothing to do either with evading sanctions or with hiding wealth,” the spokesperson added.

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