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EU states freeze over €36bn of Russian assets


Ireland is performing relatively strongly within the European Union in freezing the assets of sanctioned Russian individuals and entities, with enforcement varying widely between member states, the Irish Times can reveal.

An internal EU document that has not previously been revealed shows estimates of frozen assets provided by each member state government to the European Commission as of April 5th, providing a rare overview of how EU countries compare.

The responsibility to enforce internationally-agreed sanctions rests with national governments and authorities, and the figures collected from member states reveal large differences in the value of assets seized.

Ireland reported freezing just under one billion euro in assets. That figure has grown since then to exceed €1 billion as of April 14th 2022, in 158 different notifications to the Central Bank of Ireland, according to the government.

France reported freezing almost €24 billion in assets, the greatest amount of any EU member state. Frozen Russian central bank assets make up the bulk of the figure, but Paris has also overseen the seizure of oligarchs’ yachts, helicopters, artwork, and mansions.

Belgium froze €10 billion in assets, a relatively large figure that is possibly due to the presence of the headquarters of the Swift banking system in La Hulpe, outside Brussels.

One standout on the other end of the scale was Hungary. An estimate of the value of seized assets was not provided, with a remark reading instead “volume very low”.

The Hungarian government has been called out in criticism by the Ukrainian government over its stance on Russia, with Kyiv accusing prime minister Viktor Orbán, previously an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, of sitting on the fence.

The figure for Germany was noticeably low at €341,595, while for Denmark it was just €4,195, according to the figures stated on the document. The Irish Times sought to clarify with all three governments.

Since the document was drawn up German authorities have impounded one of the world’s largest yachts, the Dilbar, which has two helipads and a vast indoor swimming pool and is owned by metals and mining oligarch Alisher Usmanov. The US Treasury has said its estimated value is up to $735 million.

The sum of the value of assets seized based on available figures on April 5th stood at €36.3 billion.

Car worth €600k

Some of the variation between countries is accounted for by the uneven distribution of the assets of sanctioned Russian individuals and entities across the EU. But political will to enforce is also crucial, officials and diplomats say, with decisions about seizures directed by government ministries.

Italy, which has seized a string of Russian oligarchs’ mansions and yachts, had frozen just over €1.1 billion in assets. The seized assets include a single car worth €600,000 – reported by Italian media to be a black Mercedes-Maybach S650 Guard reinforced to protect against bullets and explosives, also the property of Mr Usmanov, and seized in Sardinia.

The Netherlands froze just under €516 million, believed to be largely financial assets.

Cyprus froze €86.3million, with some additional assets noted for which an estimated value was not given. Poland froze just under €34.5 million, Sweden just under €29 million. Lithuania froze just under €14 million, while Latvia’s figure was €17.5 million. Czechia froze just under €11 million.

Greece and Spain did not provide a monetary figure. Spanish authorities have seized superyachts belonging to Russian oligarchs worth tens of millions of euro, while Greece was reported to have impounded a Russian oil tanker earlier this week. Finland gave a monetary figure of €300,000, plus other assets for which a value was not given. Finnish customs have also frozen 21 yachts.

Portugal, Romania, and Croatia did not provide estimated values of frozen assets.

The EU began slapping sanctions on key Russian companies and individuals after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and this ramped up after the all-out invasion of Ukraine began on February 24th, in coordination with allies including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.

The total sanctioned by the EU now stands at 1,093 individuals and 80 entities, who are subject to asset freezes and travel bans because “their actions have undermined Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence”.

The individuals sanctioned include hundreds of members of the Russian State Duma, Mr Putin and his daughters, and high-ranking officials and oligarchs such as Roman Abramovich.

The EU is currently working on additional sanctions, with pressure for measures to go further to undermine Moscow’s ability to continue the war.




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