Munich In the course of investigations against a Russian for violating EU sanctions, 24 houses and apartments were searched nationwide on Wednesday. Among other things, it is a villa on Lake Tegernsee, which is said to belong to the oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who is loyal to the Kremlin.
The Munich II public prosecutor's office did not confirm the suspect's identity, but eyewitnesses observed emergency services who searched the building in Rottach-Egern in the morning. There were further searches with a total of around 250 officers in Baden-Württemberg, Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg.
According to the investigators, the Russian is suspected having spent frozen funds to pay for the security of his property in Upper Bavaria. There is therefore the initial suspicion of a violation of the Foreign Trade Act, according to the authority.
Four other suspects are being investigated for aiding and abetting. They are said to have acted as guards and received money for it.
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The public prosecutor's office in Frankfurt and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) are also investigating money laundering. According to the authorities, the suspect Russian is said to have initiated several transactions of funds between 2017 and 2022 in order to conceal their origin. In doing so, he used his extensive and complex network of companies and corporations, mainly in so-called offshore states.
Investigators think it's possible that the money came from crime, most notably tax evasion. According to current knowledge, the volume is in the tens of millions.
Alisher Usmanov is considered to be Putins straw man
Usmanov is considered a close supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukraine policy. the European Union had therefore imposed sanctions a few days after Russia's attack on the neighboring country on February 28.
The resolution states that Usmanov served as a straw man for Putin and solved his business problems. In front of the oligarch's villa in Rottach-Egern after the Russian invasion Ukraine people demonstrated again and again.
Because of the sanctions, the authorities also arrested the luxury yacht "Dibar" in April, which is the most expensive yacht in the world with an estimated value of more than 500 million euros. The owner is said to be Usmanow's sister. On Wednesday night, the boat was moved from Hamburg to Bremen by tugs from the dry dock of a shipyard.
According to the "Spiegel" the federal government has assets of Russian citizens in mid-September Germany frozen of at least 4.88 billion euros. The news magazine refers to a document from the Federal Ministry of Economics.
>>Read also: What turns rich Russians into oligarchs
Usmanov made a fortune with a company empire, especially in the metal and steel industry. In 2018 he sold his stake in the English football club Arsenal London for around 600 million euros.
According to research by the broadcasters BR and MDR, the German authorities are targeting Usmanow because he has apparently been staying in his house in Rottach-Egern regularly for a long time since 2016 and could therefore have been taxable in Germany.
"This is about whether sanctions law was violated," BKA President Holger Münch explained the searches on Wednesday. With regard to the yacht, the aim is "to generate additional evidence on the question of who these yachts are attributable to". The clarification of the question of who is the real beneficial owner here is necessary in order to ensure that the freezing of assets also has legal validity.
Officials from the federal police, the local police and the financial authorities of North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria were also involved in the actions. Previously, the "Spiegel", the Bavarian Radio and the Central German Radio had reported.