Russian Billionaire Sues French Customs for Seizing His Yachts
A Russian billionaire is suing French authorities in an effort to win back access to two of his yachts, arguing customs officials did not have the right to immobilize them despite him being on an EU sanctions list, his lawyer said on Thursday.
Alexey Kuzmichev, one of the main shareholders of Russia's Alfa-Bank, who was sanctioned by the EU in March for his ties to President Vladimir Putin, appealed the seizure of his ships "La Petite Ourse" and "La Petite Ourse II", held in the Cote D'Azur towns of Antibes and Cannes, respectively.
"If you own an asset for your personal use, like a yacht, you have the right to make use of it even though it's frozen", Philippe Blanchetier, Kuzmichev's lawyer who brought the case before a court in Paris on Wednesday, told Reuters.
Kuzmichev also owns cars and properties in France which he also can't sell or rent out due to the sanctions, but he still has the right to use them, the lawyer said, adding: "I don't know why one should make a difference when it's a yacht."
He also argued there were procedural flaws linked to the seizures.
The French customs office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The verdict on Kuzmichev's bid to regain use of his yacht is due on Oct. 5, his lawyer said.
Kuzmichev, who is worth close to $7 billion according to Forbes, co-founded the international investment group LetterOne, which owns several telecoms groups, but left the firm's board in March.
(Reuters - Reporting by Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Bernadette Baum)