Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is seen in the stands during Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on 19 December 2015 in London, England.
Clive Mason | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – The United Kingdom announced on Thursday that it had frozen assets belonging to two Russian oligarchs worth up to £ 10 billion or $ 13 billion.
The move against Eugene Tenenbaum and David Davidovich, two close associates of the better-known Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, represents the largest freezing operation in British history, according to a government spokesman.
Thursday’s freeze on assets comes a day after authorities in the offshore tax haven Jersey froze assets worth more than $ 7 billion suspected of being linked to Abramovich.
That brings the total value of the frozen assets up to as much as $ 20 billion. In addition to the freeze, only Davidovich, not Tenenbaum, was banned from traveling to the UK.
Jersey is an autonomous Channel Island whose head of state is Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
British officials said the Jersey verdict against Abramovich and the British actions against Tanenbaum and Davidovich were coordinated.
The move aims to cut off potential sources of cash that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use to bankroll his cluttered invasion of Ukraine.
“We are tightening the trash for Putin’s war machine and targeting the circle of people closest to the Kremlin,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (below) said in a statement announcing Thursday’s freeze on assets. “We will continue to impose sanctions until Putin fails in Ukraine. Nothing and no one is off the table.”
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in Warsaw, Poland, April 5, 2022
Mateusz Wlodarczyk | Nurphoto | Getty Images
England, and London in particular, has long served as a hub for Russia’s post-Soviet billionaire class, and several landmark properties in the city’s most fashionable areas serve as second homes for Russian oligarchs.
But Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine and the international response to it threaten the economic security that British pounds and property wealth once represented for Russia’s richest and best-connected oligarchs.
British sanctions imposed on Abramovich in March are forcing him to sell the famous London football club Chelsea. A multi-billion dollar deal to sell the club is reportedly nearing completion, with four bidders still owning one of Europe’s most successful football teams.
Unlike a high-profile asset like Chelsea, the holding companies now controlled by Davidovich and Tenenbaum (bottom left) represent the other side of Abramovich’s empire, one that largely remains hidden.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (R) and director Eugene Tenenbaum (L) celebrate a goal for Chelsea v Bolton Wanderers in the Barclays Premier League on 25 February 2012.
Jed Leicester | Action pictures | Reuters
The international sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine have shed new light on the worldwide maze of grenades that Russian oligarchs use to hide the sources and destinations of their wealth.
In the past week, relatively small tax havens like Jersey and the Cayman Islands have announced the freezing of tens of billions of dollars in assets in their banks by Russian oligarchs who have been sanctioned.
Jersey has long served as a secret offshore corporate tax haven. Some of the world’s richest people hide their assets on the island using Byzantine labyrinths of shell companies.
David Clapp | Photo Library | Getty Images
Tenenbaum and Davidovich are both involved in a Jersey-based company called Evrington Investments Limited, which is affiliated with Abramovich, according to UK authorities.
Business records show that on February 24, the same day that Russia invaded Ukraine, Abramovich transferred control of Evrington Investments to Tenenbaum.
Less than a month later, Tenenbaum transferred control of the company to Davidovich.
But it was not only Tenenbaum who took over Abramovich assets just on the day of the invasion.
On February 24, Abramovich transferred control of a separate company, Norma Investments, to Davidovich, according to the company’s records. In the past, Abramovich has used Norma Investments to fund energy start-ups around the world, The Wall Street Journal reported.
And it was not just companies.
One of Abramovich’s largest yachts, the Aquamarine, was also transferred to Davidovich on February 24, according to a study by The Guardian. Technically, the 150-foot superyacht is owned by a company called MHC Jersey Ltd., which is registered in Jersey.
Davidovich confirmed to the Guardian that he was the owner of both the MHC and the yacht itself.