- Jersey police have searched companies allegedly linked to Abramovich
- Russian billionaire among those affected by Western sanctions
- Police admit the need to cancel search warrants
LONDON (Reuters) – Police in Jersey have admitted conducting illegal searches at places allegedly linked to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and agreed to pay compensation and an apology, according to a legal document seen by Reuters.
After President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the West imposed the most severe sanctions in history on Russian officials and businessmen, freezing assets worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
On April 12, the Jersey Royal Court issued a formal order freezing $7 billion of assets linked to Abramovich, who made a fortune in the chaos of the 1990s, and police searched buildings suspected of being linked to Abramovich.
But the inspected companies challenged the legality of the search warrants issued on the same day. Two search warrants were issued to search places allegedly linked to Abramovich’s business activities.
In a consent order dated November 9 and confirmed by two sources, Jersey police acknowledged that “search warrants were obtained illegally” and agreed to “cancel the search warrants,” according to a copy of the document seen by Reuters.
The Jersey Police did not respond to a written request for comment.
The document said that the police also agreed to pay compensation and costs, and confirmed that all copies of documents seized in the searches had been destroyed and that the police would apologize to Abramovich.
“Mr. Abramovich has always acted in accordance with the law, and we are pleased that the Jersey Police have admitted in connection with the unfounded illegal searches,” Abramovich’s spokeswoman said.
It was not immediately clear what effect accepting the illegal inspections would have on the $7 billion freeze.
Abramovich, who also holds Israeli citizenship, was one of the most powerful businessmen who acquired massive fortunes after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Forbes estimated his net worth at $8.7 billion.
A prosperous commodity trader in the post-Soviet period in the 1990s under then-President Boris Yeltsin, Abramovich acquired stakes in the Sibneft Oil Company, Rusal Aluminum, and the later sold Aeroflot airline.
Under Putin, Abramovich served as governor of the remote Arctic region of Chukotka in Russia’s far east. He has been involved in attempts to find a negotiated settlement of the war, so far without any success.
Britain imposed sanctions on Abramovich, calling him a “loyal Kremlin oligarch.”
“Abramovich is connected to a person who was and continues to be involved in destabilizing Ukraine and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, that is President Vladimir Putin,” according to UK Sanctions List.
Abramovich’s supporters, who have never been interviewed, say such assertions are unproven and fail to understand the business climate in post-Soviet Russia.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge) Editing by Raisa Kasulowski
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