Why Western Sanctions Failed to Hit Russian Oligarchs What luck Abramovich, Potanin and Melnichenko have had

Forbes reports that the number of Russian billionaires has increased in the past year, defying sanctions imposed by the West to cripple Russia’s economy. Russia currently has 105 billionaires with a total net worth of $474 billion, up from $320 billion last year. Moscow’s rich suffered briefly from the sanctions, but later recovered much of their wealth. The 39 billionaires sanctioned by the West have withdrawn $104 billion since March 2022 and lost only 13% of their accumulated wealth compared to the day before Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

By Observer Editorial Board on 21.04.2023, 17:07

The fortunes of some Russian billionaires have increased due to high prices of commodities such as gas, oil, metals and minerals. A recovery in the Russian stock market and the ruble also helped. The MOEX Russia index, which tracks the 50 largest companies traded on the Moscow Stock Exchange, is up 31% from its lowest level since September 26, 2022, and is just 18% above its pre-war level. And the ruble has returned to its pre-war value against the dollar, up 65% since the March 10, 2022 fall.

Other billionaires have transferred their assets to relatives or children to keep their money safe. Many evaded the ban by transferring funds and offshore entities holding assets in the names of spouses or partners. Others preemptively moved their boats and planes to friendly destinations like Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, which never imposed sanctions on Russia. Others, deeply entrenched in Russia, saw the sanctions as an opportunity to bolster their wealth and pick up assets that others had abandoned.

Russia has 22 new billionaires since last year

The West and its allies have imposed several economic sanctions on Russia, but Moscow picked up 22 new billionaires in 2022, according to the annual billionaires list. Forbes Last week. There are currently 105 Russian billionaires on the Forbes list. It should be noted that in 2021 there were 117 people, although this number is higher compared to the 83 Russian billionaires counted in 2022. In 2021, they control a total of about $580 billion. This year, 105 billionaires are worth $474 billion, $154 billion more than in 2022.

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This year, the Russian edition of Forbes listed 110 billionaires with a net worth of $505 billion, including Russian-born billionaires such as Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram, or brothers Dmitry and Igor Bukhman, who founded the company. Playrix Online Games. The American edition of Forbes lists Duro as a citizen of the United Arab Emirates, while the Bookman brothers are listed as Israeli citizens.

Russia’s richest man today is Andriy Melnichenko, whose fortune has risen from $11.1 billion to $25.2 billion in the past year, thanks to his fertilizer and coal businesses, supported by higher prices. Russia is a world power in resources, so even the billionaires affected by Western sanctions are doing well. For example, steel tycoon Alexei Mordashov was sanctioned by the US, EU and UK, but his wealth still rose from $13.2 billion in March 2022 to $20.9 billion in March 2023. Another coal tycoon, Andrei Schoch, was hit by sanctions. , increasing his net worth from $4.7 billion to $7.9 billion.

In April 2022, Vladimir Potanin, a bank magnate with businesses in the nickel business, bought the Russian banking group Rosbank from the French company Société Générale, which had originally bought it from Potanin in a series of deals from 2006 to 2014. Two weeks later, Putin took over Tinkoff Bank, one of Russia’s largest private banks, from former billionaire Oleg Tinkov for an undisclosed sum. Purchases were made before Potanin was approved by the UK in June and the US in December. Times were good and business was good. Potanin’s net worth increased by $6.4 billion from March 2022 to March 2023, thanks to the banks, enough to make him Russia’s second richest man. “It’s basically a win for Potanin, and it’s to his advantage that he made the deal before he was allowed,” commented Anders Åslund, a Swedish economist and expert on Russian oligarchs, who described how some Russians left. “What usually happens now is that people migrate or focus only on Russia. Botan is a good example.”

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The number of Russian billionaires defying Western sanctions has grown

Roman Abramovich was allowed by the EU to avoid freeze or confiscation of his assets after transferring a large part of his assets to his children. He then physically moved his superyachts from Europe to friendly shores. Four of his yachts, including the $429 million Eclipse and the $507 million Solaris, ended up in Turkey, where Western sanctions prevented them from touching them. In addition, despite having to abandon the Chelsea football team, which was forced to sell by the British government, Abramovich still managed to do well. His fortune fell from an estimated $14.3 billion on February 23, 2022, to $6.9 billion when the ruble collapsed and Russia’s stock market closed two weeks later. Forbes estimates that his net worth is now back at $9.2 billion.

Prosecutor Viktor Winkler told Forbes that several Russian billionaires were able to act quickly and set up an action plan in response to the sanctions that came in after the war began. As a result, “their assets have survived remarkably well,” Winkler said. But not everyone is so lucky. Petr Aven, a Russian businessman sanctioned by the UK and the EU, has lost money for two consecutive years: his wealth fell from $5.3 billion in March 2021 to $4.3 billion in March 2022 and $4.2 billion in March 2023.

At least 46 Russian or Russian-born billionaires have been sanctioned by the US, EU and Britain since 2014. Most of them were attacked in the months after the invasion of Ukraine. Only 39 of them appeared in the 2022 and 2023 editions of Forbes World’s Billionaires. On February 23, 2022, the day before the invasion, 39 people had lost $45 billion, or about 13% of their assets.

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The rise in the wealth of Russian billionaires is in stark contrast to the evolution of American and Chinese billionaires over the same period, amid recession and market shocks. In 2023, the US will have even more billionaires. The 735 American billionaires lost a combined $200 billion last year, despite a combined net worth of $4.5 trillion. China (including Hong Kong and Macau) is second, with 562 billionaires holding a total of $2 trillion, down $300 billion. India ranks 3rd with 169 billionaires and a net worth of $675 billion. To calculate net worth, Forbes used stock prices and exchange rates as of March 10, 2023.

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