Can France really confiscate the assets of Russian oligarchs?

Question from Anton

Can France really confiscate the assets of Russian oligarchs?

Hello Antoine and thanks for your question,

It was in the early days of the Ukrainian conflict. On February 28, after a meeting of the Defense Council, the Minister of Economy announced that France intends to continue “a complete inventory of financial assets, real estate, yachts, luxury cars that, under European sanctions, would belong to Russian persons”. Bruno Le Maire even promised to buy “legal means of confiscation of all these assets.”

Three weeks have passed, and Bersi refuses to give an initial assessment of this hunt. “to the Russians in a dishonest way” use Joe Biden terminology. First of all, the problem of confiscation is not so simple. We explain all this to you.

Arrest possible as part of an offense

Semantics is also important in this new cold war between France and Russia. And Bersi quickly changed his mind, erasing the word removed from the official speech. It’s no longer a question now what freezing of Russian assets. “This happens in an administrative manner,” explains Christophe Tukov, Vice President of the Nice Administrative Court. – The judge intervenes only a posteriori, in the event of a dispute. in connection with the offence.”

That’s why it was risky to declare “grab” Russian goods. Freezing, on the other hand, happens automatically. “Tools exist,” continues the Justice of the Peace of Nice. “They were put in place in 2014 and the annexation of Crimea through decree 2014/269.”It is this decision of the Council of Europe that makes up the evolving list of persons subject to sanctions. “However, a regulation, unlike a directive, does not need to be transposed into national legislation. It is applied automatically.”deciphers Judge Tukov.

The targeted oligarch will no longer be able to sell or rent out his villa

But what is the difference between freezing and capturing? “Under freezing there is no dispossession, continued by Dean Emeritus Christian Vallard, professor of public law and jurist in Nice. The relevant funds and resources remain the property of the interested parties, but they lose the opportunity to use them.”

In other words, a Russian oligarch targeted by European sanctions will not be able to sell or rent his villa on the Riviera. On the other hand, theoretically, he could come and spend his holidays there. “Which is unlikely to happen emphasizes Professor Vallard, since financial sanctions are usually accompanied by a ban on entry into the territory of the country.

“Their money is their money”

The same applies to the bank accounts of individuals on this black list: “Their holders cannot transfer their funds or withdraw them, but their money is still their money.” So the deadly weapon of this financial war is relative containment. Bersi is no doubt aware of this, as the Minister of Economics has announced that he is going to contact the Keeper of the Seals to find out how to get this freeze back. “more restrictive”.

Two solutions: change French law…

“Apart from changing French legislation to bring it closer to the one in force in Russia, I don’t see how this would be possible”– snorts the financial investigator from the Cote d’Azur, suddenly ironic: “For now, we are content with what we do best in France, which is listing names.“In fact, there were no seals on the gates of the villas of Cap Ferrat, Roquebrune, Lavandou or the Gulf of Saint-Tropez.

… Or go through the UN Security Council

However, there would be a way to achieve confiscation: “The one that was implemented in a single case, in 2003, albeit in Switzerland,” emphasizes Me Vallar. transferred to a special fund to be returned to the Iraqi state and its people. Then this procedure was based on the resolution of the Security Council.”of which he recalls that “One of the five permanent members with veto power is none other than… Russia.”

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