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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

From Marylebone to Caribbean: wealth of Abramovich’s business partners revealed | Roman Abramovich

The lavish wealth of Roman Abramovich’s business partners can be revealed today, including offshore investments in a Caribbean island resort, plans to redevelop a Marylebone church and a vast array of property in the UK and beyond.

Documents seen by the Guardian detail the sprawling business empire controlled by the Russian billionaires Alexander Abramov and Aleksandr Frolov.

The business partners hold a combined 29% stake in the Russian steel and coking coal producer Evraz, alongside Abramovich. Although not directly sanctioned, Evraz is named in the government’s sanctions against Abramovich and its shares are currently suspended. Neither Abramov nor Frolov have been the subject of sanctions in the UK, EU or US.

Abramov, a steel baron who founded Evraz and oversaw its listing on the London Stock Exchange in 2005, was given an award by Vladimir Putin in 2017 for his work, the Decoration For Beneficence. He was pictured with the president and defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, at the ceremony.

West Caicos in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
West Caicos. Photograph: David Hinds/AP

Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP, named Abramov in the House of Commons as one of a number of Russian billionaires who “made their money only because they are close to the Kremlin, and they sustain their wealth only because they remain close to the Kremlin.”

Both men were also named on the so-called “Putin List” of 210 prominent Russians released by the US Treasury in 2018. Abramov, Frolov and Evraz did not respond to requests for comment.

Announcing sanctions on Abramovich, the government has said it believes Evraz may make steel for the Russian military, including for tanks. Evraz has denied this, saying it only supplies steel to the infrastructure and construction sectors.

Jointly, Abramov and Frolov have an extraordinary portfolio, including multiple investments in the UK. Documents seen by the Guardian show that their portfolio included:

  • West Caicos, a Caribbean island intended to be developed as a luxury resort island.

  • Co-investment in the redevelopment of All Souls church near the BBC in Marylebone, London, to include office space.

  • Shepherd’s Bush market, via investment in the company aiming to acquire a majority stake.

  • Office space in London, Leicester and Glasgow.

  • A Prague golf course community with more than homes and a hotel and spa.

  • Land and a part-built hotel in Mykonos, alongside an operating partner.

  • An office at one of London’s most prestigious Mayfair addresses on Clifford Street.

The pair’s UK property investments alone total more £100m.

They have also previously invested in historic UK pubs, including the LGBTQ venue the Black Cap in Camden. The pair helped fund the purchase of the pub in 2010, according to Transparency International, a deal that was followed by a long-running battle with campaigners over plans to redevelop it into flats.

Abramov and Frolov control their global network of investments via Vollin Holdings Ltd, an entity based in the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven and financial secrecy jurisdiction.

All Souls church, London.
All Souls church, London. Photograph: Kristina Blokhin/Alamy

Vollin’s investments, worth more than €500m, are in turn managed by Kew Capital LLP, which was founded after Evraz was listed on FTSE and is based in Mayfair.

In its sanctions notice, the government claimed that Abramovich effectively controls Evraz, and that it supplied goods and services to the Russian government that could contribute to the invasion of Ukraine.

The company has denied its steel was used to build Russian tanks and said that Abramovich did not have “effective control.”

However, Evraz signed a five-year deal in 2012 to supply railway wheels and “metal” to UralVagonZavod, a Russian company that is the world’s largest manufacturer of battle tanks. It makes T-72s and T-90s that are in service in Ukraine today.

Since he was sanctioned by the UK government, Abramovich’s assets have been frozen, meaning he cannot sell his stake in Evraz. He bought a 41% holding for £1.6bn in 2006 from Abramov and Frolov. The size of the stake has since declined to 29% but was worth £2.5bn at the beginning of the year, before the war in Ukraine triggered the collapse of the Evraz share price.

The whole board of directors has resigned and the company’s shares have been suspended from theLondon Stock Exchange since 10 March.

Vollin’s assets have not been subject to any restrictions and its investments are managed by London-based Kew Capital and promoted via a wholly-owned vehicle called Decimus Real Estate from offices in Mayfair.

One of the most eye-catching of those assets, pictured among other projects on the Decimus website, is an island in West Caicos, which is due to be developed in partnership with a luxury real estate firm.

Plans for the island include a marina village, boutique hotels, a golf course and mooring spaces for guests’ superyachts.

The company’s website boasts of its involvement in developments including luxury houses in Kensington and Knightsbridge, a portfolio of prestigious London pubs, student housing in Florence, Italy and an almond farm in Portugal.

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