France’s seizure of villa belonging to Putin’s ex ‘illegal’

France’s seizure of villa belonging to Putin’s ex ‘illegal’

The Kremlin has condemned the seizure of a £7.6m palatial French villa linked to Vladimir Putin’s ex wife as “illegal”.

Nicknamed Suzanna, the palatial, art deco home was purchased for €5.4 million in 2013, with renovations totalling up to €3.5 million, according to French media.

The villa, 300m from the beach, is reported to be owned by a real estate company controlled by Russian businessman Artur Ocheretny, who is married to Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, the former Mrs Putin.

They were wed in 2015, two years after her marriage to the Russian president ended.

The villa, in the southwestern coastal town of Anglet, was targeted in December 2023 as part of an investigation into money laundering, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

“Any encroachment on private property is illegal from the onset,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“The French authorities are undermining the foundations of their legal system. We have said it many times,” he added.

Apartment also seized

Le Monde reported that another property, a Paris apartment allegedly belonging to  Mrs Ocheretnaya, was also seized in December.

Since the Ocheretnayas married, the ex First Lady of Russia, 66, and the businessman and Ironman triathlon aficionado, 46, are reported to have built up a real estate portfolio worth millions.

Two days after the invasion of Ukraine, it was graffitied with slogans including “F— Putin”, “Putin’s Mafia” and “Glory to Ukraine!”

Before his move into real estate, Mr Ocheretny ran a seafood business and an event-organising company.

An investigation in 2017 by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project said there was nothing in Mr “Ocheretny’s background that explains how he could have come to own such a prime piece of real estate”.

In 2017, when his ownership of the villa was exposed, he did not reply to numerous requests for comment.

The French probe came to light following a complaint by Transparency International, an NGO that exposes and tracks assets it says are linked to “dirty money”.

Investigators are looking into whether the funds used to purchase the home were obtained fraudulently, although prosecutors have stressed no-one has been formally charged.

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