French authorities froze two helicopters owned by sanctioned Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov on the French Riviera last week. A spokesperson for the French Ministry of Economy and Finance confirmed to Forbes that the two helicopters—an Airbus EC-175 with the tail number M-DLBR and a Eurocopter EC-155 with the tail number M-DLBA—were frozen in Le Castellet on March 22 and in Monte Carlo, Monaco, on March 25, respectively. France sanctioned Usmanov on February 28 as part of wider European Union sanctions, which Monaco adopted the same day.
Usmanov, 68, is one of Russia’s richest people. He was an early investor in Facebook. His largest holding is a stake in iron ore and steel giant Metalloinvest and he also owns shares in Chinese consumer electronics firm Xiaomi as well as smaller holdings in telecom, mining and media.
The helicopter marked M-DLBR was last recorded in Le Castellet on November 13, 2021, while M-DLBA was last seen in Monte Carlo on March 1, according to public data. Both helicopters were registered in the British crown dependency of the Isle of Man until they were deregistered on March 3. In practice, deregistration makes an aircraft “stateless” and deprives it of a valid certificate of airworthiness, meaning it’s no longer insurable and can’t fly until it’s registered in a new country. M-DLBR is owned by Cayman Islands-based Crystal Sky Limited and M-DLBA is owned by Caymans-based Margaux Aviation Limited, according to the Isle of Man Aircraft Registry. Forbes estimates the two helicopters are worth a combined $26 million, based on prices for new and used models.
A spokesperson for Usmanov told Forbes that Usmanov does not own the helicopters. “Most of the property [mentioned by Forbes], including the two helicopters, have been transferred into irrevocable trusts. Mr. Usmanov does not own them,” he 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.”
Margaux Aviation Limited is linked to Usmanov via its prior ownership of an Airbus A340 jet owned by Usmanov, while M-DLBR has been photographed on Usmanov’s 512-foot superyacht Dilbar. Both helicopters are associated with Dilbar, which has two helipads and is valued at $588 million by yacht valuation experts VesselsValue. Both Dilbar and the Airbus jet were blocked by the U.S. Treasury Department on March 3, the same day Usmanov was sanctioned by the U.S. The Airbus—worth at least $350 million, according to the U.S. Treasury—was last seen in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on February 28. Usmanov was born in the former Soviet republic and holds dual Russian and Uzbek citizenship.
Dilbar is currently stuck in the German port city of Hamburg, where it has been stationed for refitting work since October. Forbes reported on March 3 that work on the ship had been halted and the Ministry for Economy and Innovation in the German state of Hamburg said that the yacht could not leave port. Forbes reported on March 8 that the 96-person crew on the yacht had been fired because Sarnia Yachts, the firm that employed the crew, was no longer able to pay salaries due EU and US sanctions
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