- French authorities froze two helicopters linked to Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, Forbes reported.
- One helicopter has been seen on his yacht, the other is owned by a company that used to own one of his aircraft.
- Usmanov's spokesperson told Forbes the helicopters were not his.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
French authorities last week froze the ownership of two helicopters linked to Alisher Usmanov, Forbes reported Thursday.
Usmanov has been called one of "Putin's favourite oligarchs" and has been sanctioned by the UK, US, Switzerland, and the European Union, which Usmanov says has said are based on "false and defamatory allegations." His assets include a superyacht, Dilbar, which the US Treasury says could be worth between $600 million and $735 million.
The French Ministry of Economy and Finance confirmed to Forbes that regulators froze two helicopters. One helicopter, an Airbus EC-17, was frozen in Le Castellet in southeastern France on 22 March. The other was a Eurocopter EC-155 that was frozen in Monte Carlo, Monaco on 25 March, per the outlet.
Monaco is located along the French Riviera and has adopted the same sanctions as the EU. Forbes estimated the two helicopters are worth $26 million.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, Usmanov is worth $19.6 billion. He said he invested $880 million in Facebook, and he owns a stake in an investment group that controls Russia's largest iron ore producer and a telecommunications company.
A new Russian asset tracker assembled by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project shows that Usmanov lists Usmanov's known minimum asset value at $3..4 billion, including two homes, a large aircraft, and 27 bank accounts in Switzerland.
Insider was not able to locate contact information for Usmanov's spokesperson, but they told Forbes that he does not own the helicopters: "Most of the property, including the two helicopters, have been transferred into irrevocable trusts. Mr. Usmanov does not own them," the spokesperson said. "The process of moving property into family trusts started many years ago and had nothing to do either with evading sanctions or with hiding wealth."
Trusts are a way to give money to another person or entity, plus avoid taxes or manage wealth in general. The 27 bank accounts (with over $2 billion in them) in Switzerland with Credit Suisse are officially owned by Saodat Narzieva, Usmanov's sister, who is a gynaecologis, per the OCCRP. However, the contact information for the accounts links to groups associated with Usmanov, but his spokesperson told Forbes he has "never had personal accounts with Credit Suisse."
One of the helicopters, however, Forbes wrote, is owned by Cayman Islands-based Margaux Aviation Limited, which used to own one of Usmanov's jets, an Airbus A340. The other helicopter has been seen on Usmanov's Dilbar yacht.
Forbes said that both helicopters were registered at the Isle of Man and were deregistered in March, like other Russian assets in the tax haven. (When an aircraft is deregistered, it can't be flown.) One of the helicopters was last recorded in Le Castellet in November and the other last seen in Monte Carlo on 1 March.