ROME: Italian police have seized villas and yachts worth at least €140 million (US$153 million) from four high-profile Russians who were placed on an EU sanctions list following Moscow's attack on Ukraine, sources said on Saturday (Mar 5).
A police source said a villa owned by billionaire businessman Alisher Usmanov on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, and a villa on Lake Como owned by state TV host Vladimir Soloviev, had both been seized.
In addition, sources confirmed that yachts belonging to Russia's richest man, Alexey Mordashov, and Gennady Timchenko, who has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, were impounded overnight in northern Italian ports.
Russian oligarchs are believed to have bought numerous villas in choice Italian locations over the past 20 years and sources said more assets were expected to be seized in coming days as Western states implement massive sanctions to try to force Russia to withdraw from Ukraine.
Italian banks were instructed by the Bank of Italy's financial intelligence division on Friday to urgently let it know of all measures taken to freeze the assets of people and entities placed on the EU list.
Uzbekistan-born metals and telecoms tycoon Usmanov is well known in Italy for owning multiple properties on Sardinia, while Italian media say Mordashov owned a villa worth some €66 million on the same island.
Taking into account the assets of his whole family, Forbes magazine estimates that Mordashov had an estimated net worth of US$29.1 billion before sanctions hit.
His 65m (215 ft) yacht the "Lady M" had a price tag of €65 million and was impounded in the northwest port of Imperia, while Timchenko's boat Lena was worth some €50 million and was seized in nearby Sanremo, a judicial source said.
Timchenko made a fortune in oil trading and has been described by Putin as one of his closest associates.
Soloviev reportedly complained on Russian television when he found out last month that he risked losing his Italian villa.
"Suddenly someone makes a decision that this journalist is now on the list of sanctions. And right away it affects your real estate. Wait a minute. But you told us that Europe has sacred property rights," he was quoted saying by The Daily Beast.
While the European Union has moved quickly against individuals seen as close to the Russian government, Britain has moved more slowly.
However, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was quoted as saying on Saturday that amendments to Britain's economic crimes legislation would be presented to parliament on Monday to help the government act with more speed.