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Italy court refers case on unfreezing of Russian billionaire's assets to EU

Italy court refers case on unfreezing of Russian billionaire's assets to EU

An Italian court has referred to the EU Court of Justice a decision on whether to maintain the freeze on billionaire Alisher Usmanov's assets worth more than 80 million euros ($88.18 million), according to a ruling.
As part of a Western drive against wealthy Russians after the Ukraine invasion, Italian police seized a villa on the island of Sardinia along with six firms holding properties and luxury cars of the Uzbekistan-born metals and telecoms tycoon.

The main companies involved - Sardegna Servizi, Delemar, Punta Capaccia and Machina - appealed to the administrative court of Rome saying they were controlled by a trust in Bermuda, Pauillac Property Ltd, set up by Usmanov, but from which the businessman was excluded in February 2022.

Therefore, they argued, Usmanov has not had control and management of the seized assets since then.

In a ruling communicated to parties and seen by Reuters, the court in Rome said that it would send the documents to the Court of Justice in Luxembourg, asking if, under European rules, the freezing can be applied to a person who is no longer a beneficiary of the trust and has no power to use the confiscated assets.

Pending the response from the European Union tribunal, the Italian judges have ordered the case suspended.

Lawyers for the appealing companies did not comment on the ruling.

Italy sequestered properties, villas and yachts worth more than 2 billion euros since last year from wealthy Russians, who regularly came to the country on holiday and had bought property in many prestigious locations.

In July 2022, an Italian court had thrown out requests to unfreeze billionaire Alexey Mordashov's yacht Lady M which has a price tag of 65 million euros.

Since then, other Russian oligarchs who had their assets seized in Italy have appealed to the administrative court in Rome, including billionaire businessman Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko, whose 143-metre (470-foot) superyacht Sailing Yacht A worth 530 million euros was seized last year.

Those cases are still pending before the Italian court.

($1 = 0.9072 euros)

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