Investigation reveals assets
Member: Roger Isaacs
A piece in the Financial Times has revealed that two yachts currently moored in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, have ties to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich via a British Virgin Islands-domiciled firm called Wenham Overseas Ltd.
Antigua has, therefore, called on the Government to help confirm whether Mr Abramovich is their ultimate owner, as the British Virgin Islands (BVI) is a British territory.
In a letter sent from Antigua and Barbuda’s Foreign Affairs Minister EP Chet Greene to Resident British Commissioner Lindsay Thompson, Minister Greene says that it would be ‘helpful to both Governments’ if Britain could find out who the beneficial owner of the yachts is and, crucially, if they are named on the UK’s list of sanctioned people.
In their response, the British High Commission sent the Antiguan authorities a letter from the Financial Investigation Agency of the British Virgin Islands, which states that Roman Abramovich is indeed the beneficial owner of Wenham Overseas Ltd.
This confirmation raises the prospect that the yachts could be seized, as it notes that Antigua “will provide full assistance to the Government of the United Kingdom” if it receives a request under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, which is a common mechanism by which nations cooperate to help enforce laws.
Investigative agencies in the UK, EU and US all have evolving lists of individuals and companies deemed to have aided Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
In addition to Mr Abramovich, several other oligarchs are also subject to such measures, which include asset seizures and travel bans.
Many high-profile yachts, along with private jets and mansions, have subsequently been seized worldwide.
Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “The sanctions imposed as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has created a surge in the number of financial checks and investigations – many of them conducted with the assistance of forensic accountants.
“Finding the beneficial owner of assets can be a complex and painstaking task but the task is an essential one, given the sanctions that are in place.
“Many forensic accountants and investigators have considerable experience in tracing assets and their beneficial owners. This can sometimes be necessary simply to determine whether a potential client is subject to sanctions.
“We are also seeing cases in which litigation is underway and one or more of the parties is now subject to sanctions. This raises difficult questions, not least that it becomes very difficult for the legal team representing the sanctioned party to be paid for its fees.”
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