Alisher Usmanov: The Oligarch's Tangled Web of Sanctions, Properties, and Legal Battles
November 30, 2023 - Reading time: 4 minutes
Alisher Usmanov, a prominent Russian oligarch, has recently become the subject of intense scrutiny and legal challenges, particularly concerning his property dealings and connections to the Russian state.
This article delves into Usmanov's background, the controversies surrounding him, and the latest developments that have unfolded. Alisher Usmanov, born on September 9, 1953, in Uzbekistan, is a prominent figure in the Russian business world. With an estimated net worth of $18.4 billion, Usmanov has made his fortune in various sectors, including mining, telecommunications, and investments.
He founded Metalloinvest, Russia’s largest iron ore producer, in the 1990s and holds a significant stake in it through the investment group USM. Usmanov has also been a notable figure in sports, previously holding a 30 percent stake in Arsenal Football Club and sponsoring Everton FC’s training ground.
International Recognition and Awards
Usmanov’s relationship with Putin has been a subject of significant interest. In 2020, Usmanov himself praised Putin as “the number one leader in the world today” and was awarded the Order for Service to the Fatherland by the Russian president in 2013, Russia’s highest civil award.
Controversies and Sanctions
Usmanov has been embroiled in several controversies, particularly concerning his property holdings in the UK and his close ties to the Russian government. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Usmanov faced sanctions from Western governments, including a "full asset freeze." Just days before these sanctions, Usmanov legally transferred his stake in a London property firm, Curzon Square Ltd, to his business empire, potentially circumventing the impending sanctions.
The London Property and Legal Maneuvering
Under its previous name, Klaret Services (UK) Limited, the firm held a leasehold for a Grade II listed property in London's Mayfair. Investigations revealed that shares controlled by Usmanov were sold to Metalloinvest.
However, sanctions initially targeted only Usmanov, not Metalloinvest, allowing the company to maintain control over the London property. This move has been perceived by some experts as a legal strategy to circumvent the sanctions, enabling Usmanov to potentially still receive dividends as Metalloinvest’s main shareholder.
Bank Accounts Frozen and Government Action
Following an investigation by openDemocracy, UK banks froze the accounts of Curzon Square Ltd, revealing the intricacies of Usmanov’s financial maneuvers. Despite the company’s compliance with regulations, the freeze occurred in July 2022, significantly impacting its ability to operate. It wasn’t until April of the following year that the UK government sanctioned Curzon Square Ltd directly, ten months after initial revelations about its potential benefits to Usmanov.
Usmanov's Defense and Appeals
Usmanov has staunchly defended himself against these allegations. A spokesperson for Metalloinvest labeled the sanctions against him as “illegal” and “groundless,” arguing that claims of Usmanov's close ties to Vladimir Putin are unfounded. In response to the sanctions and property allegations, Usmanov and his family have begun legal proceedings to challenge the sanctions, which they consider unfair and unsubstantiated.
Recent Developments and Global Impact
The complex situation surrounding Usmanov underscores the broader implications of international sanctions and the ongoing geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West. Usmanov’s case is emblematic of the challenges faced by governments in enforcing sanctions and the legal complexities involved in targeting the assets of influential figures with extensive international holdings.
Alisher Usmanov's story is a convoluted saga of wealth, power, and political connections, intertwined with legal and ethical questions. His ongoing legal battles and the actions taken against his assets reflect the global effort to hold Russian oligarchs accountable in the context of the Ukraine conflict. As this situation continues to evolve, it highlights the intricate dance between power, politics, and law on the international stage.
David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.