French authorities froze two helicopters belonging to sanctioned Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov on the French Riviera last week. A spokesperson for the French Ministry of Economy and Finance confirmed Forbes that the two helicopters – an Airbus EC-175 with tail number M-DLBR and a Eurocopter EC-155 with tail number M-DLBA – were frozen in Le Castellet on March 22 and in Monte Carlo, Monaco, on March 25 March, respectively. France sanctioned Usmanov on February 28 as part of broader European Union sanctions, which Monaco adopted the same day.
Usmanov, 68, is one of the richest people in Russia. He was an early investor in Facebook. His largest holding is a stake in iron ore and steel giant Metalloinvest and he also has shares in Chinese consumer electronics company Xiaomi as well as smaller stakes in telecommunications, mining and electronics. media.
The helicopter marked M-DLBR was last registered in Le Castellet on November 13, 2021, while the 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, delisting renders an aircraft “stateless” and deprives it of a valid certificate of airworthiness, which means it is no longer insurable and cannot fly until it is registered in a new country. M-DLBR is owned by Crystal Sky Limited, based in the Cayman Islands, and M-DLBA is owned by Margaux Aviation Limited, based in the Cayman Islands, according to the Isle of Man Aircraft Register. Forbes estimates that the two helicopters are worth a total of $26 million, based on prices for new and used models.
A spokesman for Usmanov said Forbes that Usmanov does not own the helicopters. “Most goods [mentioned by Forbes], including the two helicopters, were transferred into irrevocable trusts. Mr. Usmanov does not own them,” he said. “The process of transferring assets into family trusts began many years ago and had nothing to do with evading sanctions or hiding wealth.”
Margaux Aviation Limited is linked to Usmanov through its previous ownership of an Airbus A340 belonging to Usmanov, while M-DLBR was photographed on Usmanov’s 512ft superyacht Dilbar. Both helicopters are associated with Dilbar, which has two helipads and is valued at $588 million by yacht valuation experts VesselsValue. Dilbar and the Airbus jet were blocked by the US Treasury Department on March 3, the same day Usmanov was sanctioned by the United States. The Airbus, worth at least $350 million, according to the US 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 stranded in the German port city of Hamburg, where he has been stationed for redevelopment work since October. Forbes reported on March 3 that work on the ship had been halted and the Ministry of Economics and Innovation of the German state of Hamburg said the yacht could not leave port. Forbes reported on March 8 that the crew of 96 on the yacht had been made redundant because Sarnia Yachts, the company that employed the crew, was no longer able to pay wages due to EU and US sanctions.
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Updated March 31 with comment from Alisher Usmanov’s spokesperson.