Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, who quit London this month after complaining that it was impossible to live in the UK under sanctions, is still fighting authorities in court.
(Bloomberg) — Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, who quit London this month after complaining that it was impossible to live in the UK under sanctions, is still fighting authorities in court.
Lawyers for the sanctioned tycoon said that government officials have refused additional licenses for management payments for his London mansion and funds for a staff driver that would have left Fridman reliant on public transport to travel.
Fridman moved to Israel earlier in October just before the attack by Hamas militants on the country and was then forced to flee to Moscow. His lawyers said Tuesday that he does intend to return to the UK.
The billionaire, who holds Israeli and Russian citizenship, is the founder and main shareholder of Alfa Group, which includes Russia’s largest private bank. The European Union and the UK imposed sanctions on Fridman and his partners soon after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The US sanctioned him in August, while he was living in London.
The billionaire has already successfully fought a number of legal skirmishes with the UK, with police dropping a probe over alleged sanctions evasion following a high-profile raid of his mansion. Officials have also changed his sanctions listing, no longer stating that he was a “pro-Kremlin oligarch.” He’s now designated based on his prior roles at Alfa Bank Russia.
The Tuesday hearing is set to challenge UK treasury officials’ determination to refuse licenses for a monthly £30,000 ($36,473) management fee as well as payments for internal phone lines, audio and TV equipment and staff costs. The billionaire suffered a “security incident” in September, according to a legal filing submitted for a Tuesday hearing. There were no further details available.
Fridman’s lawyer Rachel Barnes said the asset freezing measures “impose a draconian regime of financial prohibitions and restrictions.”
The UK said it refused a payment for a staff driver “on the basis that the defendant is able to travel by public transport,” Barnes said.
UK has already allowed payments of around £1 million to cover Fridman’s “basic needs,” said Malcolm Birdling, a lawyer for the government. “We are concerned at the margins.”
Birdling said the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation rejected further staff payments “which would enable Mr. Fridman to enjoy his pre-designation lifestyle.” Any management fees would have effectively involved a payment to Fridman’s assistant Nigina Zairova, who is herself sanctioned.
The UK also rejected funds for audio and TV because Fridman didn’t provide sufficient information as to what charges were for entertainment and what would be paid for security, they said.
The tycoon first moved to London in 2013 after he and his partners sold their stake in TNK-BP to Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft, pocketing $14 billion.
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