Kremlin Criticizes France’s Seizure of Russia-Linked Villa

Thu Apr 18 2024
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MOSCOW: The Kremlin on Thursday condemned the seizure in France of a villa allegedly owned by Russian businessman Artur Ocheretny, the new partner of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ex-wife. The property, situated in the southwestern coastal town of Anglet, was confiscated in December 2023 as part of an investigation into money laundering, announced prosecutors on Wednesday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced the seizure, asserting that any encroachment on private property is inherently illegal. “The French authorities are undermining the foundations of their legal system. We have said it many times,” Peskov stated, emphasizing Moscow’s opposition to the move.

The opulent villa, nicknamed “Suzanna,” was acquired for 5.4 million euros ($5.8 million) in 2013, with additional expenditures exceeding 3.5 million euros for renovations, as reported by French media outlets. The investigation was initiated following a complaint by Transparency International, an NGO focused on exposing and tracking assets associated with illicit financial activities.

Investigators are scrutinizing the origins of the funds used to purchase the property, amid suspicions of fraudulent acquisition. However, prosecutors clarified that no formal charges have been laid thus far.

The seizure comes against the backdrop of heightened tensions between Russia and Europe, particularly since Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine in February 2022. In response to Russia’s actions, European nations have implemented sanctions leading to the freezing or confiscation of billions of dollars’ worth of Russian assets.

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