Russian Billionaire Pumpyansky Blasts EU Bans as Political Hostage-Taking

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(Bloomberg) -- Russian billionaire Dmitry Pumpyansky attacked European Union sanctions against him and his family as making them “collateral damage” in the bloc’s foreign policy efforts to thwart President Vladimir Putin.

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Pumpyansky, his wife and son were sanctioned following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine subjecting them to stringent travel bans and asset freezes. The listings are “based on an abuse of power” and serve “no understandable, no reasonable purpose under the EU foreign policy goals,” one of the family’s lawyers told the EU’s lower court on Tuesday.

The family are “no more than collateral damage in the conflict between Russia and the EU,” they are “mere hostages of EU foreign policy,” Gabriel Lansky, a lawyer for Pumpyansky and his wife, said in the EU General Court, in the first of dozens of public appeals involving wealthy Russians and sanctions.

The EU has sanctioned almost 1,500 people and 207 entities since Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, starting with its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and followed by its invasion of Ukraine in February last year. Dozens of Russian billionaires, including Roman Abramovich, and family members flocked to the bloc’s courts in Luxembourg in an attempt to extricate themselves from the list and have their funds unfrozen.

Rich Russians Seek to Defy Long Odds in EU Sanctions Fights

Pumpyansky, founder of the nation’s biggest steel pipemaker TMK PJSC, was added to the EU list in March 2022, for his role in a major Russian company and for being among 36 businesspeople who met with Putin to discuss the impact of the sanctions, according to the EU. The sanctions decision was renewed last month.

Pumpyansky isn’t “a Russian oligarch in any common understanding of the expression,” his lawyers said. He’s a “self-made businessmen who for many, many years successfully built a business that was also clearly in the interest of Europe.”

Like other tycoons targeted, Pumpyansky has sought to restructure his key assets. He’s offloaded his stake in TMK and left its board of directors. Pumpyansky also owned the Axioma superyacht with a 3D cinema, a two-story saloon and an aqua launch leading from the upper deck to the sea. It was sold for $37.5 million in Gibraltar last year in the first public auction of an asset seized since Russian war on Ukraine.

“Every single Russian billionaire we deal with claims that he no longer owns the companies that he previously owned and he divested from his property just in time when the restrictive measures were imposed,” said Bart Driessen, a lawyer for the EU Council.

“In all these cases, billionaires continue to enjoy the economic benefits of ownership even if on paper,” they had lost formal ownership, he said.

The cases are: T-291/22, Pumpyanskiy v. Council, T-272/22, Pumpyanskaya v. Council, T-291/22, Pumpyanskiy v. Council.

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