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Russian president sues UK over $50 yacht seizure

Russian president sues UK over $50 yacht seizure

BLOOMBERG — Britain has seized a 38 million pound ($50 million) superyacht belonging to a Russian president not targeted by sanctions in an attempt to force him to openly criticize Vladimir Putin’s rule, their lawyers told a British court. .

Property developer and food importer Sergei Noumenko, who is not on any sanctions list, is suing the UK Department for Transport, saying he has never been involved in political activities and has no ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Last year’s shutdown of the 60-meter (197-foot) semi-new “Fi” interferes with Naumenko’s right to “peacefully enjoy his possessions” under the European Convention on Human Rights, his lawyers said in court filings. Thursday (13).

The British government insists the boat was detained because Naumenko meets the criteria for a person “connected to Russia”.

“There is no way Naumenko could have amassed and maintained such a fortune without benefiting directly or indirectly from a patronage system under President Putin, loyal to the Russian regime,” said Jason Popejoy, a lawyer for the Department of Transportation. Court documents said in a statement.

Naumenko’s attorneys and a Department of Transportation spokeswoman declined to comment.

It is one of the first cases to test the UK government’s ability to go after wealthy Russian assets. A number of high-profile Russian billionaires and oligarchs have been formally sanctioned by the UK, US and EU, and have gone to court against the measures.

The dispute will examine the scope and proportionality of sanctions against Russia, said Helen Taylor, a researcher at the charity Spotlight on Corruption.

“With Naumenko’s superyacht pending, the government is now under pressure to explain how to target this London-linked symbol of movable wealth and persuade Putin to change course in Ukraine,” he said.

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The chancellor’s lawyers said Britain was effectively trying to force Noumenko to criticize the Russian government without considering how it would affect him and his business.

“Disproportionate action against individuals cannot be justified by a widespread desire to appear ‘tough,’ whether the message is intended for consumption in domestic constituencies or elsewhere,” his lawyer, Nigel Giffin, said in court filings.

A government lawyer countered that imposing sanctions and detaining a luxury yacht sends a signal to other ultra-rich Russians. Bobjoy said the detention of a superyacht could affect the willingness of other wealthy Russians to maintain political support and tolerance of the Russian regime’s actions.

The 500-tonne “Fi”, was built in 2021 and has been moored at a dock in London’s Canary Wharf since December that year. After a winter stop, the ferry was due to leave for Malta in March 2022 when it was detained by the then transport secretary, Grant Shabbs.

See more at Bloomberg.com

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