The vast wealth hidden by Vladimir Putin’s pal who escaped global sanctions could be unearthed today as investigators rush to track down his wealth.
Billionaire oligarch Alisher Usmanov, 68, avoided the ban by transferring billions of pounds worth of assets to false names, including his £455m ($600m) superyacht.
Luxurious British homes and planes owned by the mining magnate were also donated to legal funds “a long time ago,” aides jubilated yesterday.
Investigators are now trying to prove his links to assets such as his 516-foot Dilbar boat, which boasts a £30 million ($39 million) gold staircase.
But Conservative MP Bob Seeley, an expert on Russian affairs, said last night: “We’re years behind on this.”
Usmanov, who lives in Uzbekistan and says he is “proud” of meeting Putin, came under official UK sanctions on March 3.
It was hoped that the crackdown would hit his vast wealth built up over decades in British society.
His extensive UK property portfolio includes a £73m mansion in Highgate, North London, two adjoining houses worth at least £20m each and a £30m property in Guildford, Surrey. He also owns a £265 million private jet and a £4 million helicopter.
But yesterday it turned out that Usmanov protected his fortune 16 years ago, when he began to create his trusts.
As Putin continues to bomb Ukraine, we can show you exclusive photos of Usmanov’s superyacht, believed to be the largest in the world, on which he visited the tyrant at his holiday home in Sochi.
The gaudy floating palace, currently located in Hamburg, boasts a 30-meter indoor pool lined with blue crystals and adorned with sumptuous columns.
One of his sumptuous bedrooms showcases Usmanov’s love for gold: faucets, doorknobs, bed frames, toilet seats and showers are all made of precious metal.
The mogul, who had close ties to Premier League club Everton, also had a vast “football lounge” where he could watch them wherever he was.
Sources said last night that a £10 million art collection had been smuggled out before the imposition of sanctions.
German authorities have confirmed that they did not confiscate the superyacht as its ownership has not yet been “clearly established”.
Officials are now facing a race against time to prove his legal ties to Usmanov before he is granted an export permit to leave the port.
One British sanctions expert, who declined to be named, told The Sun: “These people can of course hire their own lawyers.
“And currently, a lot of work will be done to transfer ownership of property and other assets. It’s definitely a race to turn visible things like ships, planes and property into cash or items that belong to someone else.”
A source said of his boat: “The boat itself is the largest in the world in terms of volume. They have one of the largest pools on a yacht. There is a huge spa area.
“There are saunas, steam rooms, relaxation rooms, massage rooms, a hairdresser and a nail salon. He also has a room he calls the football lounge and he used to go there to watch football every few days.”
The Sun yesterday revealed the obscene luxury of Putin’s £500m Scheherazade superyacht. Similarly, Dilbar boasts a fully functioning hospital and a custom-built cinema.
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A source close to the oligarch told The Sun that Putin often visited him on a ship under heavy security.
A source said: “Usmanov and Putin are very good friends. Once or twice a year, Usmanov descended to Sochi with the whole team on board.
“It was always very important, and the team closed on deck. Phone signal was off, Wi-Fi was off.
“There were people with weapons and armed guards at every exit. Putin came, and they went to sea for an hour or two.”
Last night, the sanctions expert added: “For reasons that have nothing to do with sanctions, it made sense for oligarchs over the years to own most of their assets through trusts or other independent entities.
“It can be quite tricky to take them apart, and it’s an interesting but difficult job, especially when it comes to things like yachts.
“Finding assets alone can be incredibly difficult. Reliable work requires a lot of time and money.
“Until this resource is given to the authorities, yes, the oligarchs will always be one step ahead.”
Mr Seeley called for new laws to help investigators. He told The Sun: “We have several major crime agencies in the UK.
“But they need to be properly funded and supported, and they must be able to prosecute those who are persecuted in the public interest.
“If we are always one step behind or afraid of the costs of litigation, we will not be able to do the right thing for the British and for justice.
“Currently, these agencies are effectively fighting with their hands tied behind their backs, simply because we do not have the structure, funding or laws in place.
“That’s why we need a new law on espionage and a new law on economic crimes. We are years behind.”
Last night, a spokesman for Usmanov told The Sun: “All property was transferred to irrevocable funds long before the imposition of sanctions, and this process has nothing to do with them.
“Mr. Usmanov has transparently built his wealth through successful ventures he created and through investments in the open market.
“Mr. Usmanov has never acquired or benefited from any government or state.”
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