Our shareholder Mikhail Fridman writes about sanctions

After the 10 April decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union by which 2022 EU sanctions against our two shareholders were set aside, ABHH was contacted by media representatives for comment.
We, in turn, contacted our shareholder, Mr. Mikhail Fridman, and asked for his views. Mr. Fridman has declined to discuss the judgment of the European Court. However, by way of comment on the sanctions situation, he referred to the article published by The Spectator, that we republish below.
The article was written before the EU court decision and does not take account of it.
The article is also available by this link: https://www.spectator.co.uk



The sanctions against me are a huge injustice

15 April 2024, 11:19am

Early on the morning of 1 December 2022, 50 helmeted and body-armoured National Crime Agency officers and a media relations officer burst into Athlone House, my home in Highgate, north London. They seized telephones and computers and issued a derogatory press release. The police could not name me, but pictures of the inside of my house with police officers inside soon circulated on social media.

My assets and businesses in Britain and the EU have been in effect nationalised

Raids of this kind may be familiar in repressive regimes. But I did not expect them in Britain, a perceived champion of fair play, the rule of law and a declared enemy of authoritarian governments and law enforcement agencies.

The raid was designed to enforce sanctions the British government imposed on me in March 2022, at the outbreak of the Ukraine war. The sanctions are restrictive and draconian. They have forced me to stop what I have done in Britain since 2015: creating, investing and operating businesses, providing jobs and paying taxes. These businesses include Holland & Barrett and Upp, a tech firm that has provided full-fibre connections to more than one million British homes. These and other companies with links to me have suffered significant financial disruption owing to the refusal of suppliers and banks to continue dealing with them. Hundreds of jobs have been lost, and thousands more may disappear.

The original justification for the sanctions against me was based on my alleged closeness to Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. This has been challenged, found to be false and amended. Now the only stated ground for the sanctions is my involvement in the Russian financial-services sector (I founded Alfa-Bank in 1990 and left the board in March 2022). If this is now a crime established retrospectively, then I know of many top-tier western financial, energy and consumer-goods companies that continue operating in Russia who would then be my accomplices. The fact that dozens of these companies still work normally in Russia is virtually unknown in the West. 

This public ignorance underscores the need for transparency, the rule of law and basic fairness. Instead, a situation exists where my assets and businesses in Britain and the EU have been in effect nationalised, with no compensation, and no proof of any wrongdoing other than the subjective view of anonymous civil servants.

In my mind, the sanctions-enforcing raid on my house was an act of intimidation. The National Crime Agency (NCA) subsequently conceded the warrant for the raid had been unlawfully issued and executed. It transpired the warrant was obtained on the basis of a press cuttings-and-paste job from a ‘report’ posted on the internet in 2008 to discredit me by alleging I had, as the NCA put it, ‘historical and ongoing involvement in serious organised crime’. This claim was demonstrably false. The warrant did not specify the area of my house to be searched and was not signed by an identifiable NCA officer. When these facts were revealed to the court, the NCA discontinued its investigation and agreed to pay me £85,000 in a settlement. I am told this is one of the largest sums ever paid in Britain for the law of trespass.

I firmly believe Britain’s Russia-related sanctions against individuals and businesses contravene the basic principles of law and constitute an arbitrary criminalisation of normal commercial and personal conduct. I am advised the sanctions are unlawful on many levels. Nowhere do the British authorities seek to clarify where the sanctions stand in relation to international law. They are imposed by ministerial decree rather through a process of transparent scrutiny.

I am also told that, to find the closest analogy, you have to go back centuries to the dark days of ‘prerogative justice’ and ‘bills of attainder’. The government says the seizures are temporary, yet now we hear talk of asset confiscation. Temporary should be short-term but experience shows that once sanctions are in place they tend to stay.

You do not have to be a legal historian or international lawyer to regard the sanctions as an abomination of justice. They directly violate a bilateral investment treaty that Britain signed with Russia to protect foreign investors. The unconditional obligations of the government to not expropriate investments and allow their repatriation at any time has been breached. Other foreign investors notice these things. While decisions not to invest in Britain may be invisible to the public, or indeed business at large, they are feeding directly into the downward spiral of the shrinking economic base and increasing tax burden faced by British citizens.

On the practical side, the sanctions have demonstrably failed to achieve their stated purpose. The idea that by making life miserable for Russian businessmen in London you encourage them to influence the foreign policy of Russia in the desired direction has been exposed as wishful nonsense. (Speaking of which, I cannot fail to mention the particularly repulsive practice of including in the sanctions wives and children who have nothing to do with business or politics.)

On the contrary, by persecuting hundreds of Russian entrepreneurs and managers, Britain has achieved only a rapprochement between Russian business and the Russian authorities. Faced with sanctions, they inevitably seek protection. It has also resulted in an unprecedented increase in domestic investment in Russia in the absence of alternative markets. The sanctions policy shows an utter lack of understanding about the workings of political power in Russia. The cold truth is western sanctions have backfired, alienated many Russian businessmen in the West and made them consolidate their resources inside Russia.

Many people like me came to Britain because it was regarded as a country where the common-law system zealously protected the property rights of individuals. It is sad this seems no longer to be the case, as international laws, treaties and access to justice are cast aside for populist political purposes.

The arbitrary and vindictive nature of sanctions is already costing Britain in many ways. But how much will it ultimately end up damaging Britain’s economy, reputation and democracy?

I hope that the acknowledgment of the wrongs caused to me by the unlawful raid on Athlone House can be a turning point.


Written by

Mikhail Fridman is a Russian-Israeli businessman.





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