Putin Billionaire’s Assets Frozen in Italy Over Sanctions

Italy froze luxury properties belonging to Arkady Rotenberg, a Russian billionaire blacklisted by the European Union over the war in Ukraine for being one of President Vladimir Putin’s “cronies.”

The assets are valued at as much as 28 million euros ($36 million) and include the Berg Luxury hotel in Rome and properties in Sardinia, according to an Italian finance police official who asked not to be identified because he isn’t authorized to speak to the press.

The EU and U.S. have targeted individuals and companies to punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea in March and its role in the pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin denies arming or financing the rebels. Rotenberg is a boyhood friend and former judo partner of Putin who made his fortune in part through supply contracts with state-run OAO Gazprom, the world’s largest gas producer.

“It’s surprising that in the current case we’re talking about real estate, as the sanctions shouldn’t apply to it,” Rotenberg told the Russian news service Interfax today in comments confirmed by his spokesman. “This once again demonstrates the illegitimacy and absurdity of this situation.”

The EU sanctions cover funds and any resource that can be sold, including real estate, according to Matthew Getz, international counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in London.

“The freezing of assets should be happening all the time,” Getz said by phone. “One complication stems from the fact that if the assets are held in trust, as it can take time to get to the bottom of who actually owns them.”

The finance police also froze two villas in Sardinia valued at 3 million euros that belong to Oleksiy Azarov, the son of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, the official said.

The Italian actions against Rotenberg’s properties were first reported today by Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper.

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