France seizes €120mn Russian-owned villa — RT Business News

France seizes €120mn Russian-owned villa — RT Business News

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The property is officially owned by a Russian-Armenian billionaire but prosecutors suspect that energy giant Gazprom is the true beneficiary

France has seized a luxurious villa in Cote d’Azur on suspicion that it belongs to Russian energy giant Gazprom, the newspaper Le Monde reported on Monday, citing French prosecutors.

According to the report, Villa Maria Irina – previously known as Villa del Mare – is one of the most opulent mansions on the French Riviera. Estimated to be worth around €120 million ($130 million), the villa features swimming pools, a tennis court and helipad.

The three-hectare property officially belongs to Russian-Armenian tycoon Samvel Karapetyan, who bought it in 2010. Karapetyan is the head of Tashir Group, a leading company in the commercial real estate development market in Russia.

However, French prosecutors believe Karapetyan acted on behalf of Gazprom in purchasing the estate. According to documents analyzed by Le Monde, the businessman bought the shares of Maritime Villa Holding SNC, the owner of the property, from Gazprom Neft, thanks to a loan of $124 million granted by Gazprombank. The loan was granted by the Russian bank in exchange for the villa being pledged as collateral, the outlet claimed.

“There is evidence that suggests that successive acquisition plans for the villa were carried out in the name of various companies, whose indirect ownership would amount to making Gazprom the effective beneficiary,” the Paris prosecutors’ office said.

US spending $7mn a year on seized Russian yacht

The seizure is the French authorities’ biggest haul since the West started to slap Ukraine-related rounds of sanctions on Moscow, Le Monde wrote. Property belonging to wealthy Russians, including dozens of superyachts, has been confiscated around the world as part of Western sanctions.

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