France confiscates EUR120mn Russian-owned mansion

(MENAFN) In a major development, France has confiscated a luxurious villa on the Cote d’Azur, valued at approximately EUR120 million (USD130 million), amid suspicions that it belongs to the Russian energy giant Gazprom. The opulent property, known as Villa Maria Irina (formerly Villa del Mare), is situated on the prestigious French Riviera and boasts amenities such as swimming pools, a tennis court, and a helipad.

Officially registered under Russian-Armenian tycoon Samvel Karapetyan, who acquired it in 2010, the three-hectare estate has become the subject of a seizure by French authorities. Karapetyan, the head of Tashir Group, a prominent player in Russia's commercial real estate development market, is believed to have acted on behalf of Gazprom in the acquisition of the property.

French prosecutors allege that Karapetyan purchased shares of Maritime Villa Holding SNC, the entity owning the villa, from Gazprom Neft. The acquisition was reportedly facilitated through a USD124 million loan extended by Gazprombank, with the villa serving as collateral. Le Monde, which reported on the incident, reviewed documents indicating that successive acquisition plans for the property were executed in the name of various companies, suggesting Gazprom's effective ownership.

The Paris prosecutors' office released a statement, noting, "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."

This seizure marks a significant move by French authorities and is considered their most substantial action since the imposition of Ukraine-related sanctions by the West against Moscow. The global application of sanctions targeting wealthy Russians has led to the confiscation of numerous assets, including superyachts, around the world.

As the legal proceedings unfold, the case sheds light on the broader implications of sanctions and the international efforts to scrutinize and curtail the financial activities of entities and individuals associated with geopolitical concerns. The Villa Maria Irina saga underscores the intricate intersections between wealth, global real estate transactions, and the enforcement of sanctions in an increasingly interconnected world.


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