Friday, June 10 2022

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is seen in the stand during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on December 19, 2015 in London, England.

Clive Mason | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The United Kingdom announced Thursday that it has frozen assets belonging to two Russian oligarchs worth up to $10 billion, or US$13 billion.

The actions against Eugene Tenenbaum and David Davidovich, two close associates of Russia’s best-known billionaire Roman Abramovich, represent the largest asset freezing action in British history, according to a government spokesman.

Thursday’s asset freeze came a day after authorities in Jersey’s offshore tax haven frozen assets valued at over $7 billion who are believed to be related to Abramovich.

This brings the combined value of frozen assets to $20 billion. In addition to the freeze, Davidovich was banned from traveling to Britain. Tenenbaum, however, was not.

Jersey is a self-governing Channel Island whose head of state is Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.

But British officials said Jersey’s judgment against Abramovich and British actions against Tanenbaum and Davidovich were coordinated.

They were aimed at cutting off potential sources of cash that Russian President Vladimir Putin could call upon to finance his botched invasion of Ukraine.

“We are tightening the ratchet on Putin’s war machine and targeting the circle of people closest to the Kremlin,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (below) said in a statement announcing Thursday’s asset freeze . “We will continue with the sanctions until Putin fails in Ukraine. Nothing and no one is out of order.”

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in Warsaw, Poland on April 5, 2022

Mateusz Wlodarczyk | Nurphoto | Getty Images

England, and in particular London, has long served as a hub for Russia’s post-Soviet billionaire class, and several iconic properties in the city’s most fashionable parts serve as second homes for Russian oligarchs.

But Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine and the international response to it are threatening the financial security that British pounds and British ownership once represented for Russia’s wealthiest and most connected oligarchs.

UK sanctions imposed on Abramovich in March have already forced him to sell famed London football club Chelsea.

A multi-billion dollar deal to sell Chelsea is reportedly nearing completion, with four candidates still in the running own one of the most successful football teams in Europe.

Unlike a top asset like Chelsea, the holding companies now controlled by Davidovich and Tenenbaum (below, left) represent the other side of Abramovich’s empire, one that remains largely hidden.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (R) and director Eugene Tenenbaum (L) celebrate a goal for Chelsea against Bolton Wanderers in the Barclays Premier League February 25, 2012.

Jed Leicester | Stock Pictures | Reuters

International sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine have shed new light on the global maze of shell companies that Russian oligarchs use to conceal the sources and destinations of their wealth.

Last week, relatively small tax havens like Jersey and the Cayman Islands announced the freezing of tens of billions of dollars in assets held in their banks by sanctioned Russian oligarchs.

Jersey has long served as a secret offshore tax haven for businesses. Some of the world’s richest people hide their assets in Jersey using Byzantine labyrinths of shell companies.

David Clapp | Photo library | Getty Images

Both Tenenbaum and Davidovich are involved in a Jersey-registered company called Evrington Investments Limited which is linked to Abramovich, according to UK authorities.

Company records show that on February 24, the same day Russia invaded Ukraine, Abramovich transferred control of Evrington Investments Limited to Tenenbaum.

Less than a month later, Tenenbaum transferred control of the business to Davidovich.

But it wasn’t just Tenenbaum who took over Abramovich’s assets precisely on the day of the invasion.

On Feb. 24, Abramovich transferred control of a separate company, Norma Investments, to Davidovich, according to company records. In the past, Abramovich has used Norma Investments to fund energy startups around the world, reported the Wall Street Journal.

And it wasn’t just the companies.

One of Abramovich’s largest yachts, the Aquamarine, was also transferred to Davidovich on February 24. according to an investigation by The Guardian. Technically, the 150ft super yacht is owned by a company called MHC Jersey Ltd, which is registered in Jersey.

Davidovich confirmed to the Guardian that he owns both the MHC and the yacht itself.


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