Of all the Russian billionaires to have been hit by international sanctions in the last year, the most notable and high-profile is Roman Abramovich. It’s been a rough 1+ year for the Russian billionaire. And now Abramovich is getting his chance to challenge those sanctions in the General Court of the Court of Justice of the European Union. According to sources with knowledge of his case, he plans to make the argument that it was that very high public profile that caused him to be unjustly targeted by the sanctions.
A source reportedly close to the situation said that the EU court will take up Abramovich’s challenge to economic sanctions imposed on him following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The EU described Abramovich as an “oligarch who has close ties to Vladimir Putin,” and in May of last year Abramovich filed a challenge against the sanctions, which among other things cost him his ownership of Chelsea FC. Now, Abramovich is arguing before the court that the sanctions were imposed not because of any substantive ties between himself and Putin but because of his high public profile and fame. As the source put it:
“He was not sanctioned because of evidence relating to the criteria: he was sanctioned simply because politically, the most famous Russian businessman had to be even if this is a manifest error.”
Abramovich’s court hearing commenced on July 13, and his lawyers did indeed argue that his fame made him a target of the EU. Politico quoted the arguments made by his attorney before the court:
“Celebrity is a double-edged sword. Ask yourself this question: When the war started, did this very famous Russian have a chance of avoiding the restrictive measures? The answer is no.”
Abramovich’s efforts to get the sanctions lifted are an uphill battle. Even if he wins this specific case, EU laws give the Council of the EU latitude to impose new ones on different grounds.