Dead Russian’s $122 Million Riviera Chateau Eludes Creditors
(Bloomberg) -- A chateau once owned by the late Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky remains in the hands of the French state after a court dismissed an attempt by creditors to lift a confiscation order on the sprawling Riviera property worth about $122 million.
Representatives of creditors including billionaire Roman Abramovich and Russian airline Aeroflot PJSC lost the last-ditch bid to reclaim the Chateau de la Garoupe in Cap d’Antibes that had been locked up as part of a separate money-laundering suit.
Geraldine Bouzard, an official at the Aix-en-Provence appeals court, read the outcome of the lawsuit by phone. Written details of the decision may not be available for days.
Berezovsky -- once dubbed the Godfather of the Kremlin -- was one of Russia’s first and best-known oligarchs before his fortunes began to decline when he opposed Vladimir Putin’s election in 2000. He left debts worth about 296 million pounds ($419 million) when he died in 2013, according to accounting firm Grant Thornton, acting on behalf of creditors.
Stephane Bonifassi, a lawyer for Grant Thornton, said he’s planning to appeal Wednesday’s ruling.
Aeroflot, with the biggest claim on Berezovsky’s estate, has argued that he embezzled huge sums when he headed the carrier. Baltic International Bank is trying to collect on a 66 million-pound debt. Elena Gorbunova, Berezovsky’s ex-partner, and the U.K. tax authority have said they’re owed about half that amount.
Once allies and friends, Abramovich and Berezovsky also fell out. Their dispute over oil company Sibneft culminated in one of the largest U.K. civil lawsuits ever filed, where Berezovsky unsuccessfully sought about $6.8 billion in compensation. For Abramovich, the stakes are much smaller this time round -- he has a claim worth less than $1 million.
The Chateau de la Garoupe, with a direct access to the sea, spans more than 100,000 square meters (1,076,000 square feet) with a living area of about 1,500 square meters. In 2011, an expert valued this “exceptional” property at about 93.6 million euros, or about 60,000 euros per square meter.
The value of the house is now at least 100 million euros, or $122 million, Alexandra Connolly, a real-estate agent based on the French Riviera, said in January.
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