Russian billionaire Fridman loses challenge over mansion upkeep

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LONDON – Sanctioned Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman cannot spend thousands of pounds a month on the upkeep of his London mansion, containing a 44 million-pound ($53.2 million) art collection, London’s High Court ruled on Thursday.

Fridman took Britain’s sanctions office, OFSI, to court after it refused to allow him to spend 30,000 pounds a month to prevent Athlone House, which he bought for 65 million pounds, from falling into disrepair.

The 59-year-old also wanted to spend 1,850 pounds a month on communications systems, which Fridman said regulate Athlone House’s telephones, IT, lighting, heating and security.

His lawyers argued Athlone House is “a unique property with unique needs … not least in light of its art collection”.

Fridman also wanted to be allowed to spend money on non-security staff, including a driver – which he had said he was refused on the grounds he can take public transport.

However, he dropped his claim to be able to pay a driver after leaving Britain for Israel and then Russia shortly before last week’s hearing.

The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) said it had already licensed Fridman to meet arrears and make one-off payments totalling around 1.4 million pounds, plus future payments of 760,000 pounds a year.

In a written ruling on Thursday, Judge Pushpinder Saini dismissed Fridman’s case against OFSI, saying its decision was lawful.

Fridman’s lawyers had told Saini that he wishes to be able to return to Britain, but Saini said in his ruling that Fridman’s return “will not be possible” as he is effectively subject to a travel ban.

Fridman’s London-based lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A British government spokesperson welcomed the judgment on Thursday, which it said showed that “our financial sanctions licensing regime works”.

Athlone House, in north London, was raided by Britain’s National Crime Agency in December, which is the subject of a separate legal challenge by Fridman.

The Russian billionaire, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes magazine at $12.8 billion, has been subject to British sanctions since March 2022, a month after Russia invaded Ukraine.

His designation under Britain’s sanctions regime was updated in September to remove a reference to him being a “pro-Kremlin oligarch”. REUTERS

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