German police raided several properties belonging to Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, including his villa on Lake Tegernsee in the southern state of Bavaria, on suspicion of money laundering and violations of EU sanctions .
A special unit of more than 250 police raided properties registered in the name of a Russian citizen at three addresses in the municipality of Rottach-Egern in Upper Bavaria on Wednesday morning, the Munich prosecutor said in a statement.
Reports by news magazine Der Spiegel and broadcaster Bayrischer Rundfunk identified the individual as Usmanov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
As part of the operation, which was still ongoing on Wednesday morning, properties were also raided in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, as well as in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany.
Usmanov, an early Facebook investor who made his fortune in mining and sports, was hit with sanctions and asset freezes by the EU, US, UK and Switzerland in the aftermath of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Munich’s public prosecutor says a Russian citizen on the February 28 EU sanctions list breached German foreign trade law by continuing to pay a security company to monitor his properties in Upper -Bavaria, thus violating the asset freeze.
The prosecutor in Germany’s financial capital Frankfurt, also involved in the raids, told the Guardian he was investigating the same individual, suspected of money laundering, for suspicious transactions linked to offshore accounts.
The 71-year-old Russian citizen, the Frankfurt prosecutor said in a statement, was suspected of carrying out multimillion-euro financial transactions between 2017 and 2022 with the primary aim of concealing the origin of the funds.
“The suspicion is that the transferred funds were obtained through criminal activities, including through tax evasion offences,” the prosecutor said.
The spokesperson said the investigations were triggered by the Panama Papers, a leak of 11.5 million files from the database of offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca, obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with a consortium of international media organisations, including the Guardian.
According to Der Spiegel, the purpose of the raid on Bavarian properties was also to seize evidence of suspected tax evasion.
Usmanov, once considered Britain’s richest person and a former shareholder in English football team Arsenal, is suspected of evading several hundred million euros in taxes in Germany.
Having resided primarily in the prosperous municipality of Tegernsee from 2014 to 2022, German authorities estimate that Usmanov owes the state income and gift tax payments of around 555 million euros. , reported Spiegel.
The oligarch, who is said to have moved to Uzbekistan since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has already lost control of his superyacht, the largest in the world by tonnage.
The $600m (£458m) Dilbar yacht was seized by German federal police in April, after weeks of financial investigation work revealed the real owner of the yacht was a ‘cover-up’ ring offshore”.