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Italy seizes USD156 million in oligarch wealth

MILAN (AP) – European governments are moving against Russian oligarchs to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to back down on his war in Ukraine, seizing superyachts and other luxury properties from billionaires on sanctions lists.

Italy since Friday has seized EUR143 million (USD156 million) in luxury yachts and villas in some of its most picturesque destinations, including Sardinia, the Ligurian coast and Lake Como.

“We must be able to stop Putin’s attack, bringing him to the table, and he won’t go with niceties,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told Italian state TV on Friday, announcing Italy’s plans to begin the seizures of property belonging to oligarchs close to Putin.

Italian financial police moved quickly seizing the superyacht ‘Lena’ belonging to Gennady Timchenko, an oligarch close to Putin, in the port of San Remo; the 65-metre ‘Lady M’ owned by Alexei Mordashov in nearby Imperia, featuring six suites and estimated to be worth EUR65 million; as well as villas in Tuscany and Como, according to government officials.

The villa of Russian-Uzbek business magnate Alisher Usmanov also was seized along the tony Emerald Coast in northern Sardinia, long the playground of the world’s wealthiest.

German officials this week denied reports that they had seized Usmanov’s yacht in the port of Hamburg. According to the British government, he also owns Beechwood House in Highgate, worth an estimated GBP48 million, and the 16th-Century Sutton Place estate in Surrey. Germany’s Economy Ministry said it was in the process of “swiftly and effectively implementing the Russia sanctions” but declined to say publicly which assets had been seized, if any.

French authorities have seized a yacht linked to Igor Sechin, a Putin ally who runs the Russian oil giant Rosneft, in the Mediterranean resort of La Ciotat where it arrived in January for repairs. French officials said on Thursday that the crew was preparing for urgent departure when they arrived, even through the repairs were still underway.

The seized yacht ‘Lady M’ docked at Imperia’s harbour, Italy. PHOTO: AP

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