Oligarch begs EU to return £225m superyacht seized over war in Ukraine

Russian oligarch begs EU to return £225m superyacht seized over war in Ukraine that was once at the centre of Britain’s biggest divorce settlement

  • Farkhad Akhmedov, 66, has filed legal papers with the EU asking Brussels to return his £225m superyacht MV Luna  
  • Vessel is currently impounded in Germany – being held due to Ukraine sanctions 
  • Ship was once at heart of Akhmedov’s record £453m divorce from wife Tatiana
  • She had impounded Luna in Dubai as part of a failed bid to recoup divorce bill 

A Russian oligarch has pleaded with the EU to return a superyacht that was once in the middle of Britain’s biggest-ever divorce settlement between him and his ex wife. 

Farkhad Akhmedov, 66, has filed legal papers in Brussels asking for sanctions placed on him over the war in Ukraine to be lifted so he can get back £225million superyacht MV Luna, which is currently behind held by Germany.

It is not the first time the yacht – which measures 377ft and has two helipads, a swimming pool, and its own mini submarine – has been contested, with Akhmedov’s ex-wife Tatiana trying to seize it in 2018 to pay off part of a huge divorce bill. 

She had been awarded £453million by a judge at the High Court in 2016 – the UK’s largest ever settlement at the time – and managed to get the yacht impounded in Dubai as part-payment, though the bid eventually failed.

 Farkhad Akhmedov, 66 (left), has asked the EU to return a £225m yacht it has seized due to Ukraine sanctions and was once at the heart of his divorce from ex-wife Tatiana (right)

MV Luna is a 377ft superyacht that was originally built for Roman Abramovich before being bought by Mr Akhmedov in 2014

MV Luna is currently in Hamburg, with German authorities refusing to release it to Mr Akhmedov because of EU sanctions on him over his links to the Russian state.

The EU argues that Mr Akhmedov – who made his £1billion fortune via shares in a Siberian gas company – benefits from the Russian government, while also providing revenue for Putin to continue his war.

But legal papers filed on behalf of Mr Akhmedov on Friday last week, say he is ‘no longer involved in the energy sector… and has not been for several years.’

They admit he is involved in local Russian politics, but add that he has never held a political position or been a member of a party ‘in Russia or elsewhere’.

Akhmedov’s legal team said he was ‘not close to the Kremlin at all and has never been part of the circle surrounding President Vladimir Putin’, according to copies of the filing seen by The Times.

Lawyers argue that Akhmedov is in fact involved in a legal dispute with Russia’s biggest gas supplier, Gazprom, and has been for several years.

Mr Akhmedov got his start in business selling furs on the London Commodities Exchange before swapping to the energy industry – founding Tansley Trading which sold equipment to the gas industry in 1987.

Six years later, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mr Akhmedov was among a clutch of Russian businessmen to capitalise on the privatisation of Russia’s former state assets by buying up shares in Siberian gas firm Nortgas.

In 1998, two years before Putin took power, he bought out another major investor and became the majority shareholder – before offloading his assets in 2012 for just over £1billion.

Mr Akhmedov rose to prominence in the UK in 2016 when Tatiana filed for divorce in what-was then the UK’s largest case of its kind – though has since been eclipsed by Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s split from his wife.

In 2017, a judge ordered him to hand over around 40 per cent of his wealth to his ex-wife – or a total sum of around £453million.

Mr Akhmedov refused to pay, saying the couple had already been divorced in Russia several years earlier and the UK courts had no jurisdiction.

Mr Akhmedov got his start in business selling furs before switching to energy, where he mad a fortune with shares in a gas giant

That sparked a five-year legal fight in which Tatiana assembled teams of specialists – including former members of the Royal Navy’s Special Boat Service – to go after and seize assets she said should belong to her, including MV Luna.

At one point the vessel – which was originally built for Roman Abramovich before Mr Akhmedov bought it in 2014 – was seized at port in Dubai.

Assets separately seized had included the yacht’s £5million Eurocopter and its £1.5million Torpedo speed boat, customised with a 1965 Ferrari GTO steering wheel.

A £40million global express jet had also been taken.

In May last year, Tatiana’s representatives announced that a court in the British Marshall Islands, which are in the central Pacific Ocean, had issued an order giving them the right to seize the super yacht from Mr Akhmedov.

But just a week later, the same court ruled that it had no power to enforce the order because only a court in Dubai, where the Luna is currently docked, could enforce a change of ownership.

In a written ruling, the court stated: ‘The Republic of the Marshall Island Maritime Administrator will not comply with the Order….the Court cannot compel the Administrator to comply with the Court’s order to transfer title (of the Luna).’

Tatiana settled her divorce with Mr Akhmedov in July last year for a £100million cash payment and £50million in artwork – less then a third of what she was originally awarded

At the time a spokesman for Mr Akhmedov said: ‘These judgements, although welcome, come as absolutely no surprise.

‘The judge’s admission that the Marshall Island Registrar cannot be compelled to transfer the ownership confirms what our lawyers have always argued: that the Luna falls totally under the jurisdiction of Dubai, not the home of its flag of convenience.

‘This is in keeping with the international principles of maritime law.’

Then, in July, the couple announced they had settled the dispute with Tatiana agreeing to take a £100million cash payment and £50million in artwork – less than a third of what she was awarded by the court.

The actual payout was even less, because Ms Akhmedova also had to pay £74.5million to her financial backers, Burford Capital, over the failed asset hunt.

A spokesman for her ex-husband said at the time: ‘The intervention in a case over which the English Court should have had no jurisdiction and the involvement of Burford ultimately achieved nothing for Tatiana.

‘Burford and she spent years and millions of pounds on a costly global tour of various jurisdictions in their attempts to seize Luna. Every one of them failed and the yacht remains and will remain in the ownership of Farkhad and the family trusts.

‘Tatiana has ended up with not a penny more than she was offered by her ex-husband six years ago. Farkhad has provided no payment to Burford.

‘Those monies will have to be paid by Tatiana, thus reducing further to her the benefit of a settlement she could have had before the lawyers and financiers got involved.’

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