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2 Russian businessmen linked to Alfa Group win court case over EU sanctions

SAMUEL PETREQUIN
April 10, 2024

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Russian businessmen Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven won a court case Wednesday over a European Union decision to sanction the pair for their alleged role in Russia's war against Ukraine.

The EU General Court said a lack of evidence justified their removal from the list of persons submitted to restrictive measures between February 2022 and March 2023.

Fridman is a founder of Alfa Group and ranked as one of Russia's wealthiest tycoons. The group's Alfa Bank, Russia's largest nonstate bank, was sanctioned by the EU in March 2022 and Fridman left the board thereafter to try to help the bank skirt sanctions. Aven headed Alfa Bank until March 2022, but like Fridman left the board after the EU imposed sanctions.

The EU in March last year kept Aven and Fridman on the lists for restrictive measures. The two have also challenged that decision in separate cases still pending.

The EU has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia since Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine. The measures have targeted the energy sector, banks, the world's biggest diamond-mining company, businesses and markets, and subjected Russian officials -- including Russian President Vladimir Putin -- to asset freezes and travel bans.

Aven, of Russian and Latvian nationality, and Fridman, who holds Russian and Israeli passports, were placed on the list for restrictive measures after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The pair challenged the decision and the General Court said that their inclusion was not justified because there was not enough evidence they provided material or financial support to Russian decision-makers, or were associated with war efforts undermining Ukraine.

"The General Court considers that none of the reasons set out in the initial acts is sufficiently substantiated and that the inclusion of Mr Aven and Mr Fridman on the lists at issue was therefore not justified," the Luxembourg-based court said in a statement.

Fridman has called the war a tragedy and for the "bloodshed" to end. He had lived in Britain, but reportedly returned to Moscow after fighting between Israel and Hamas began.

Last year, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions against four Russians on the board of Alfa Group, including Aven and Fridman.

Rulings by the General Court can be appealed to the European Court of Justice.

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