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Spiegel: Berlin sets up task force to enact Russia sanctions

March 12, 2022

Germany will create a unit to seize assets belonging to Russian oligarchs. The EU nation currently has no method for confiscating yachts, private jets and homes that are subject to EU sanctions.

The superyacht Dilbar in Bremen in 2016
The Dilbar, own by billionaire Alisher Usmanov, is currently in Hamburg and subject to an export banImage: Imago/M. Segerer

Germany is to set up a task force to help enforce  sanctions against Russian oligarchs, Der Spiegel magazine reported Saturday.

The decision follows several rounds of EU sanctions against Russian individuals and entities — including President Vladimir Putin — in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

What do we know about the task force?

The unit will be based in the Berlin Chancellery and will coordinate with the finance, economy and interior ministries, the report said. Jörg Kukies, State Secretary in the Chancellor's Office, is allegedly set to lead the new body.

At present, Germany has no established procedure for seizing assets such as yachts, private jets or houses, Der Spiegel said.

The magazine cited a memo from the Economy Ministry that "assets" are not confiscated or seized "by default" because "their private use continues to be permissible in principle."

Wealthy Russians are known to have taken advantage of Germany's real estate boom over the past decade, buying up high-end properties all over the country.

Yachts belonging to Russian oligarchs can often be seen docked in Germany's northern port of Hamburg among others.

Russians abroad feel impact of sanctions

Assets frozen, yachts and soccer clubs seized

Several countries have already seized the property of Russian billionaires, including Italy, France and the UK.

Last week, France confiscated a superyacht owned by Russia's oil czar Igor Sechin.

The "Amore Vero" was seized while undergoing maintenance work at a shipyard on the French Riviera.

This week, Britain expanded its Russia sanctions to include Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich.

The billionaire became the highest-profile oligarch yet sanctioned by any Western country when he became subject to a UK asset freeze and travel ban.

On Saturday, Italy seized its third superyacht, this time from Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko.

The 143-meter (470-foot) Sailing Yacht A, which has a price tag of €530 million ($578 million), was sequestered at the northern port of Trieste, the government said.

Meanwhile, reports suggesting that the northern German state of Hamburg had seized the yachts of three oligarchs were later denied by authorities.

mm/dj (AFP, dpa)