A dozen sanctioned Russians are linked to an estimated £800m worth of property in the UK, analysis by the BBC reveals.
Multi-million pound country manors in the south of England and luxury flats in London’s most expensive areas are among the homes which have been snapped up by figures linked to Vladimir Putin.
Some of the individuals deny ownership of the mansions, which may mean they are beyond the reach of the sanctions.
To get to the bottom of who owns what, we carried out a detailed trawl of leaked offshore documents, the Land Registry and court papers – as well as previous reporting.
Our findings highlight the UK’s status as a place for super-rich Russians to set up home, and the difficulties of identifying the true owners of properties bought by offshore firms in tax havens.
In response to the BBC’s findings, anti-corruption group, Transparency International highlighted how hard it is to track who owns what in the UK.
“Because of the system of secrecy here in the UK and in relation to the Overseas Dependencies it’s really easy for people to hide their assets and their funds in the UK and not even the police necessarily have sight of where those assets are,” Rachel Davies, head of advocacy at the organisation, told the BBC.
The UK, US and European Union have together sanctioned more than 1,000 Russian individuals and businesses, including wealthy business leaders – so-called oligarchs – who are considered close to the Kremlin.
Most of those listed below were sanctioned after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, although some were already on the government’s sanctions list.
Properties linked to sanctioned Russians include:
A £230m ($302m) property empire of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich
A £65m Victorian mansion in north London with planning permission for a cigar room and wine cellar
A Surrey manor house at the centre of a legal dispute involving Vladimir Putin’s former judo sparring partner
In early March, the British government imposed sanctions on the 55-year-old billionaire. The previous week Mr Abramovich had put Chelsea FC up for sale.
He has a vast property portfolio in the UK with more than 50 luxury residences, most on Fulham Road in west London. Through his UK company Fordstam Limited, he owns dozens of apartments in Chelsea Village, plus the hotel and residential complex around Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium, according to the Land Registry.
His most expensive London property is a 15-bedroom house on a street that is nicknamed Billionaires Row. With its vast stucco-faced Italianate mansions, it is home to royalty and ambassadors – as well as oligarchs.
Mr Abramovich bought the property in west London using an offshore company in 2011, reportedly paying £90m. In 2016 he was granted planning permission for a £28m refurbishment, including a subterranean pool, although this did not go ahead.
In planning documents submitted to the council, its existing pool was described as a “miserable space” that was “too small to afford comfortable or meaningful swimming”.
In 2017, Mr Abramovich used Fordstam Limited to buy an apartment just off the King’s Road for £8.7m. In 2019, he paid £22.3m for a three-storey penthouse apartment on the former Lots Road power station site in Chelsea.
Mr Abramovich did not answer the BBC’s requests for comment.
The UK government imposed a full asset freeze and travel ban on Alisher Usmanov on 3 March, citing the Russian billionaire’s “close links to the Kremlin”. This followed a similar move by the EU.
The Uzbekistan-born businessman and former Arsenal shareholder is a close associate of Everton’s majority shareholder, Farhad Moshiri, who is chairman of Mr Usmanov’s USM Holdings. Everton have suspended all dealings with Mr Usmanov’s businesses, including USM’s sponsorship of their training ground.
His wealth has been estimated at $18.4bn (£14bn), including “Beechwood House in Highgate [north London]… and the 16th Century Sutton Place estate in Surrey”, the UK government said.
But a spokesman for Mr Usmanov said most of the billionaire’s UK property, plus a $600m (£456m) yacht, had already been “transferred into irrevocable trusts”, potentially putting them beyond the reach of sanctions.
Tracing the ownership of the two houses targeted by the UK government is extremely difficult. They have been held through a complex web of trusts and companies registered in places like the British Virgin Islands which, until recently, did not require the ultimate owner to be disclosed.
When the UK government imposed sanctions on Oleg Deripaska, they described him as worth £2bn and a “one-time business partner” of Roman Abramovich.
In early March, a court heard that he has a multi-million pound property portfolio in the UK, including the art deco mansion Hamstone House in Weybridge, Surrey. Sitting in eight acres of grounds, the Grade II listed property was acquired for £7.1m by a Cyprus-based company, Edenfield Investments Limited, in 2001.
Mr Deripaska also owns a large home in Belgrave Square that was occupied by protestors. However, a spokesman for the billionaire at the time said the property belonged to family members.
There is evidence suggesting Mr Deripaska owns a building five minutes’ walk from Buckingham Palace. The 17th-Century terrace house was bought in 2004 for £4.7m by Astibe Limited – an offshore shell company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, which appears in the annual accounts of EN+ (an energy and metals group that Mr Deripaska has a stake in). The property is listed as the address of the company, according to research by Transparency International.
A judge has frozen UK bank accounts operated by a British businessman amid allegations they are linked to Mr Deripaska – National Crime Agency investigators believe the accounts were being used to help the oligarch avoid sanctions.
A spokesperson for Mr Deripaska said the sanctions were “deeply misguided” and based on “unfounded and hollow accusations”.
“Mr Deripaska has never been involved in politics. It is wrong to suggest that Mr Deripaska is close to the Government of Russia and/or Vladimir Putin,” the statement read.
“The decision to sanction him has nothing to do with justice or law, neither does the freezing of assets belonging to him or his family.”