A German court has ruled in favour of Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov and said that all of the evidence including paintings worth millions that were seized from his luxury yacht and other properties must be returned.
The court, in Frankfurt, sided with the Uzbek billionaire on 26th October, reportedly saying that all the evidence seized during investigations against him that began in 2022 must be returned.
The assets to be returned include a number of documents, as well as priceless works of art, including a Marc Chagall painting said to be worth millions.
German prosecutors and the Federal Criminal Police Office carried out large-scale raids last year on the seized 156-metre (500-foot) Dilbar luxury yacht, currently in Bremen after being seized in Hamburg, on properties in the Bavarian town of Rottach-Eggern and on an apartment in Frankfurt.
The Dilbar is reportedly worth USD 600 million (GBP 492 million).
Putin ally Usmanov has strenuously denied owning the assets, with his lawyers calling the prosecution “politically motivated” and “groundless”.
They successfully argued that the continued retention of the seized assets by the Prosecutor’s Office was illegal and deliberate.
One of Usmanov’s lawyers, Joachim Nikolaus Steinhoefel, told German media: “In another groundbreaking decision, the Frankfurt court recognized the retention of documents and assets confiscated in the Federal Republic of Germany as part of the investigative measures against Alisher Usmanov by the Frankfurt am Main Public Prosecutor’s Office as unlawful and their return to their owners arranged.”
Lawyers Dr Peter Gauweiler and Dr Thomas Fischer, who represent the Uzbek Embassy in Germany, said in a statement: “The actions of the German investigative authorities against Alisher Usmanov can be characterised as a cascade of illegal actions that offend the notions of justice and legality.”
They added: “Presented to the public as an impressive demonstration of political resolve, they in no way fulfil the principle of proportionality, which is the standard of law enforcement in a state governed by the rule of law.”
They also said: “The decision of the Frankfurt District Court once again reminds the German law enforcement authorities of the need to respect the laws of our country and of the inadmissibility of arbitrary behaviour, including in relation to foreign nationals.”
Alisher Usmanov, 70, is Russia’s eighth richest man and is worth USD 14.4 billion (GBP 11.82 billion), according to Forbes.
He has been the subject of sanctions in the European Union following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
Usmanov and other oligarchs including former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich have claimed that they are being unfairly targeted.
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