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Russian Oligarch Sues to Regain Access to Two Detained Yachts

petite ourse
La Petite Ourse (Wally)

Published Sep 15, 2022 8:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

A sanctioned Russian oligarch is suing French authorities over the detention of two yachts, arguing that officials had no right to board them.

According to EU officials, Alexey Kuzmichev is a suspected associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a top shareholder in sanctioned Russian financial institution Alfa-Bank. Along with fellow Alfa-Bank owners Mikhail Fridman and German Khan, Kuzmichev has been sanctioned by the EU for ties to Russian decision-makers involved in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. 

Kuzmichev is the beneficial owner of at least two yachts, La Petite Ourse and La Petite Ourse II. They were within French jurisdiction when he was sanctioned, and French customs officials boarded and seized them at the ports of Cannes and Antibes (respectively). They are both smaller vessels of under 30 meters in length. 

This week, according to Bloomberg, Kuzmichev's counsel told a court of appeals in Paris that French customs had no right to immobilize the vessels under the terms of the asset freeze. Though frozen, the vessels have not been seized, and Kuzmichev should have the right to use them - just as he would have the right to use a frozen mansion or car, he told Reuters. 

Kuzmichev, who is subject to an EU travel ban, has seen other holdings impacted by Western penalties. Shortly before he was sanctioned, Kuzmichev listed a four-story mansion in New York City valued at $41 million and sold his stake in Alfa-Bank to other parties. He also resigned from the board of a large holding company with Western interests, LetterOne.

Forbes estimates Kuzmichev's net worth at approximately $6 billion.