Roman Abramovich is one of many Russian billionaires who saw his fortune diminish significantly following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resultant sanctions from the UK and the European Union. Now, The Guardian reports that Abramovich might have attempted to dodge some of those economic sanctions even before the invasion actually happened, and he reportedly transferred ownership of multiple yachts and private jets totaling some $4 billion in value to his children just three weeks before the war began in late February of last year.
The changes were made to ten offshore trusts held by Abramovich, seeing his seven children's shared shares in assets, like the $700 million Eclipse superyacht, go from 51 percent to 100 percent. They became public following a hack of MeritServus, a company that's in charge of Abramovich's finances.
The news comes after an FBI agent claimed back in June of last year Abramovich had transferred two private jets worth a combined $400 million over to his children, a transfer that is reported to have happened just two weeks before the invasion. He also attempted to sell a property in Portugal valued at $10 million but this was halted by authorities due to sanctions that were in place even before the invasion took place.
The transfers reportedly took place just days after various governments threatened to impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs if Russia went through with its threats to invade Ukraine, and it's possible they were carried out in order to avoid such sanctions and asset freezes that could (and ultimately did) come along. And as the Guardian story points out, such moves could be met by countermoves on the part of governments attempting to seize assets that are already ensnared in a complex web of shell companies and other financial entities:
"The revelations are likely to raise questions about whether Abramovich's children should also be subject to asset freezes. Unlike family members of some of Putin's closest advisers, many families of oligarchs subject to sanctions have avoided restrictions."
Whether such an effort to seize assets of Abramovich's children could actually happen remains to be seen.