Uzbekistan is lobbying the EU to elevate sanctions on Alisher Usmanov and his sister because the Uzbek-Russian billionaire struggles to disentangle himself from the fallout of Moscow’s battle in Ukraine.
Usmanov was certainly one of 26 Russians sanctioned by the EU within the rapid days following Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, with the bloc claiming he was one of many Russian president’s “favourite oligarchs”.
His sister Gulbakhor Ismailova was additionally sanctioned on the grounds that she was the authorized proprietor of a few of Usmanov’s property, reminiscent of his $600mn yacht “Dilbar”.
Tashkent has used current conferences between Uzbek and EU officers to boost considerations concerning the sanctions, in response to two folks with data of the discussions. The central Asian nation can also be offering authorized help to Usmanov for a possible court docket problem in opposition to Brussels if the bloc rejects the requests to have the restrictions lifted.
Usmanov, who was price about $20bn earlier than Putin’s invasion, has maintained his shut connections with Uzbekistan, the place he was born. Tashkent has argued that the sanctions in opposition to him, which embrace an asset freeze and journey ban, have restricted the billionaire’s potential to speculate a few of his fortune within the nation.
The overseas ministry of Uzbekistan didn’t reply to requests for remark. A spokesperson for Usmanov mentioned: “We cannot comment on the actions of the Uzbek government, but sanctions are indeed hampering investment and charity projects.”
Usmanov, 69, began making his fortune whereas a senior director at Russian state gasoline firm Gazprom within the Nineties, leveraging that function to construct an industrial conglomerate concerned in metal, copper, telecoms, know-how and media.
Both Usmanov and Ismailova have lodged official appeals in opposition to the EU restrictions, alongside greater than a dozen different Russian oligarchs.
The lobbying from Tashkent comes at a time when the EU is looking for to construct nearer ties with Uzbekistan and different central Asian nations because the area reassesses its relationship with Russia in mild of the battle in Ukraine.
But any transfer to elevate sanctions in opposition to Usmanov and Ismailova, which might require unanimous approval by all 27 EU members, would doubtlessly open up comparable debates about dozens of different twin nationwide Russian oligarchs topic to sanctions, a number of EU officers instructed the Financial Times.
“Mr Usmanov has reportedly fronted for President Putin and solved his business problems,” the EU wrote in its preliminary justification for sanctioning the businessman on February 28. “Therefore he actively supported materially or financially Russian decision makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine.”
A spokesperson for the European Commission mentioned it doesn’t touch upon conferences between the bloc and third nations, and discussions on sanctions points have been confidential.
“The EU sanctions regime provides for all listed individuals and entities a possibility to legally challenge the listing at the European Court of Justice,” mentioned Peter Stano, lead spokesperson for overseas affairs and safety coverage.
German police on Tuesday raided workplaces of Swiss financial institution UBS in Frankfurt and Munich in reference to a cash laundering investigation into Usmanov. A spokesperson for Usmanov “categorically” rejected any allegations of cash laundering or tax evasion on his half.
The 156-metre-long “Dilbar” — the world’s largest superyacht — was detained by Germany in March, days after the sanctions have been imposed. Properties linked to Usmanov in Germany have been raided by police in September.
Usmanov’s different sister Saodat Narzieva was faraway from the EU’s sanctions record in September after efficiently interesting in opposition to what her representatives mentioned have been selections “based on false accusations”.
The EU initially justified its sanctions in opposition to Narzieva on studies by the Guardian newspaper and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project citing what they claimed have been paperwork connecting her to financial institution accounts linked to Usmanov.
The bloc additionally fears that detailed examinations of particular person sanctions might spark a debate on the general legality of its resolution to punish enterprise folks for Putin’s battle and on the supporting proof it has offered to justify the sanctions.