Category Archive Crime

High Court freezes £1.1 billion assets

The High Court has granted a worldwide order freezing the assets of the billionaire lover of London broadcaster and writer Alexandra Tolstoy.

She had consulted a consummate professional family solicitor in London.

Sergei Pugachev — a former ally of President Vladimir Putin once reportedly known as the “Kremlin’s banker” — faced legal action by the liquidator of his bank, which went bust in the global financial crisis owing hundreds of millions of pounds.

Ms Tolstoy — a distant relative of Leo Tolstoy — has three children with Mr Pugachev, and they share homes in London and the south of France. She recently claimed she owed nearly all her wealth to him.

This week, Deposit Insurance Agency, the liquidator of Mr Pugachev’s company Mezhprombank, was granted an injunction freezing £1.17 billion of his assets across the globe, including two London homes and a villa in Nice.

It means he cannot sell them or do anything that could diminish their value. He is also banned from spending cash in bank accounts.

Mr Pugachev, 51, is still allowed to spend £10,000 a week on living expenses plus legal bills.

Ms Tolstoy has claimed he is the victim of a high-level conspiracy in Russia to expropriate his empire.

She recently spoke of her fear for the safety of her and her family. In May she gave an interview in one of her London homes flanked by Russian security guards.

The Deposit Insurance Agency, represented by solicitors in London alleges Mr Pugachev transferred hundreds of millions of dollars from Mezhprombank to an account at a private bank in Switzerland. It also claims he is “vicariously liable” for the bank’s collapse. The injunction declares: “If you, Sergei Viktorovich Pugachev, disobey this order you may be held to be in contempt of court and may be imprisoned, fined or have your assets seized.”

The same potential punishment applies to anybody who assists in breaching the order.

Ms Tolstoy — whose branch of the author’s family emigrated to Britain in the Twenties —  has said that one of the affected properties is a £12 million house in Battersea that used to belong to the Forbes family.

She was educated at Downe House — the Berkshire boarding school that the Duchess of Cambridge briefly attended — and studied at Edinburgh University. In 2009 she made BBC2  documentary series Horse People with Alexandra Tolstoy, in which she lived with remote communities around the world where horses are central to the culture. It was during a decade of wild travelling around China, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan that she met her first husband, an Uzbek horseman.

When they split there was a legal row over the £250,000 Moscow apartment they lived in. She says this property, along with a cottage in Oxfordshire, is the only asset she independently owns.

Original reporting by the London Evening Standard – 17/7/14

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