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German police raid UBS offices in Russian oligarch probe

November 8, 2022

German police have raided the offices of Swiss banking giant UBS as part of an investigation into Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov.

UBS Bank in Frankfurt
The alleged money laundering was in the scale of double-digit million eurosImage: Schoening/imageBROKER/picture alliance

German investigators on Tuesday swooped on the offices of Swiss banking operation UBS in connection with an alleged money laundering operation.

The target of the investigation is believed to be Alisher Usmanov, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who is subject to sanctions by the US and European Union.

What do we know so far?

Frankfurt prosecutors said the raids were connected to a money laundering investigation that saw raids on a luxury yacht and more than 20 properties in Germany in September.

The prosecutor's office said the subject of the probe was a Russian businessman. While it did not identify the suspect by name, German media cited Russian oligarch Usmanov as the target.

Among the properties raided in September was a lakeside villa registered to Usmanov. The 155-meter (500-foot) yacht that was searched is officially owned by Usmanov's sister.

A spokesman for the prosecutor's office said the suspected money laundering was in the scale of double-digit million euros.

UBS confirmed that the raids had taken place at its Frankfurt and Munich office and said it was cooperating fully with the authorities.

A spokesman for Usmanov spokesperson categorically rejected allegations of money laundering, describing them as defamatory and unfounded.

Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Yacht Blue
The vessel that was searched in September, the "Dilbar," is the world's largest yacht by tonnage Image: Carl Groll/IMAGO

Who is Alisher Usmanov?

The UK's Sunday Times newspaper ranked Usmanov at No. 6 in a list of the world's richest people in 2021. He was one of dozens of Russian billionaires to be hit by Western sanctions after Russia invaded Ukraine. 

He is possibly best known for his metals and mining interests, for owning the Kommersant publishing house in Russia, and for owning Russia's second-largest mobile phone operator, Megafon. He also was formerly a major stakeholder in Premier League football giants Arsenal. 

Usmanov is said to be worth an estimated net $16.2 billion (€16.9 billion). He has a 49% economic interest and 100% voting rights in the global conglomerate and holding company USM. 

While the United States has blocked his personal assets, it has kept companies controlled by him off its list of sanctions in a bid not to drive up commodity prices. He is thought to presently be living in his native Uzbekistan.

The Official Journal of the European Union described Usmanov in March as a "pro-Kremlin oligarch with particularly close ties to Russia's President Vladimir Putin."

But Usmanov disputes this. Along with former Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, he is one of the oligarchs appealing his inclusion on the EU sanctions lists, at the bloc's General Court.

rc/aw (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)