NOS News•today, 00:00
The Russian billionaire Arkady Volozh owns a million-dollar building in Amsterdam, while he has been on the sanctions list since June. Due to a complicated property construction via the British Virgin Islands, his mansion remained out of sight of the Dutch government. This is shown by research by NRC and De Groene Amsterdammer.
The founder of the Russian search engine Yandex bought the two parts of the mansion in the Vossiusstraat for a total of 3.4 million euros in 2018 and 2019. He did not do this in his own name, but through the company Paraseven Limited.
By using such a offshore company, his property went unnoticed by the team of Dutch officials that searched for possessions of Russians on the sanction list in recent months. The Ministry of the Interior said this week that there were zero signals about real estate.
“It does not surprise me at all that it turns out that there is real estate of this type of Russians in the Netherlands,” says Heleen about de Linden, lawyer and sanctions expert. “It is remarkable that such things are usually discovered by journalists and not by the government. That was also the case when De Gelderlander discovered the role of Dutch companies in the construction of the Krimbrug.”
National sanctions coordinator Stef Blok indicated in his final report in May that it is not easy to track down Russians who are hiding behind complicated ownership structures. “Due to the international component, these constructions are very difficult to untangle for national actors charged with compliance, supervision and enforcement of sanctions.”
According to Over de Linden, Volozh’s mansion must be frozen now that it is clear that it belongs to a person on the sanctions list. “That means that it may not be sold, but also, for example, not rented out or renovated.”
One of the reasons Volozh is on the sanctions list is because its search engine Yandex allegedly censored critical coverage of the war in Russia and promoted Kremlin propaganda. In addition, according to the EU, he supports the Kremlin in the war. After he was placed on the sanctions list, he resigned as CEO of the internet company.
Yandex is based in the Netherlands on paper. It is unclear whether the Dutch government has frozen assets or assets of the company. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs points out that the company “not on the EU sanctions list and that Arkady Volozh has renounced his voting rights on the board of Yandex”.
Finland did freeze assets of the Finnish branch of Yandex in August, the business newspaper Helsingin Sanomat wrote at the end of September. These include a data center and a taxi service.
“It is a shame that different EU countries seem to deal with the sanctions differently,” says Over de Linden. “Brussels wants the countries to draw a line on this.”