German court orders return of seized property to Russian billionaire

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A German regional court in Frankfurt has ruled that the retention of documents and property belonging to Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov by the Office of the Federal Prosecutor is illegal, according to the billionaire’s press office, as cited by Russian business daily Vedomosti on Wednesday.

The ruling orders all documents and property seized as part of a criminal investigation launched against Usmanov last year must be returned to the sanctioned businessman.

The decision concerns property seized during police raids conducted a year ago in several villas, including one in the holiday town of Rottach-Egern, and an apartment, as well as a yacht allegedly linked to the businessman.

In September 2022, the German police seized almost 90 bank reports describing what they called “suspicious transactions” by Usmanov, as well as some allegedly valuable works of art. German law enforcement accused the Russian businessman of using his “extensive and complex network of companies and corporations” to disguise the origins of several transactions between 2017 and 2022.

In May, the Frankfurt court declared police raids on the properties, as part of a money laundering, tax evasion, and sanctions violation case, illegal.

The court also pointed out that Usmanov needs legal protection, as federal prosecutors continued retaining the seized property and documents for their own purposes despite rendering the search warrants ineffective, according to the businessman’s press office.

The Uzbek-born businessman holds a major stake in USM, a Russian investment group with holdings in Metalloinvest, one of the world’s largest iron ore producers, and telecommunications company MegaFon. Usmanov’s net worth totals $14.4 billion, according to Forbes. The 70-year-old was added to the UK, EU, and US sanction lists shortly after the launch of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine.

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