Russian billionaire couple claims Canadian sanctions are unjustified and unreasonable

Russian billionaire Andrei Melnichenko and his wife Alexandra want to be removed from Canada’s sanctions list, claiming in federal court that they were wrongly labeled “elite and intimate” of the Russian regime. Partner” label.

The Melnichenkos filed two applications in Canada’s federal court in late March, seeking to reverse a decision placing them under sanctions related to the Ukraine war.

Court documents obtained by The Canadian Press show the pair have been working since October 2022 to have them placed on a list of “designated persons” under Canada’s Russia sanctions regime.

Back in February, the Trudeau government announced amendments to the Special Economic Measures (Russia) Regulations, which included adding Melnichenkos to a list of 122 sanctioned individuals linked to the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The couple claim the Canadian government failed to provide them with any evidence to justify their listing.

The list includes Russian elites and policymakers believed to be “engaged in activities that directly or indirectly promote, support, finance, or facilitate activities that violate or attempt to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty or territorial integrity.”

“Mr. Melnichenko has no and no relationship with the Russian government or President Putin,” Andrei Melnichenko wrote in the application. “He left Russia 20 years ago and has been living in Switzerland for the past 13 years. The minister has no reasonable basis to think otherwise.”

His wife, a former model and Serbian pop singer, claimed the Canadian sanctions wrongly targeted her because she had no ties to Russia or involvement in the company her husband founded.

Scott Hutchison and Eleni Loutas, the couple’s Canadian lawyers at Henein Hutchison Robitaille LLP in Toronto, declined to comment on their case.

Alexander Byrikhin, Andrey Melnichenko’s communications director, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Global Affairs Canada said in an emailed statement that it “cannot publish information about individuals or entities listed under special economic measures (Russia), nor can it comment on individual cases.”

“In response to Russia’s illegal and unwarranted aggression in Ukraine, Canada has imposed severe sanctions on the Russian regime and those who enforce it,” the statement said.

Aleksandra Melnichenko claimed in her application that she was a European citizen “without any ties to Russia”.

She denies any ties to two companies her husband started, fertilizer company EuroChem and coal company SUEK, both of which are owned by an EU-administered trust.

“She is only the beneficiary of a discretionary trust administered by an independent trustee,” her application states. “The latter is the legal owner of the designated company.”

In June 2022, EuroChem issued a “statement on ownership and control” following reports that Andrey Melnichenko had ceded ownership of the company to him prior to being sanctioned by the EU wife.

“EuroChem Group AG is not subject to sanctions, has never been, and is free to continue its important mission of supplying high-quality crop nutrients to world markets,” the statement said. “EuroChem is majority controlled by the trustee of the EU Trust, the beneficiary of which, Aleksandra Melnichenko, has no majority ownership and no influence over EuroChem. As such, EuroChem is not controlled by any sanctioned persons.”

Aleksandra Melnichenko claims that her “wrongful” placement on sanctions lists by the European Union, Switzerland and Canada caused “difficulties for the company’s operations around the world and exacerbated the ongoing food and energy crisis.”

Andrey Melnichenko claims he was wrongly portrayed as an “oligarch” controlling the companies, causing production disruptions at European factories after he was sanctioned by the European Union.

His court application warned of similar “unintended consequences” in Canada, where Russia’s sanctions list now includes more than 1,300 people.

He was not an oligarch but a “self-made businessman,” the statement said, citing a Forbes report that said his fortune was made independently and had no ties to the Russian government under Putin and Boris Yeltsin.

Melnichenko, ranked No. 58 on the Forbes billionaires list with a net worth of more than $25 billion, built his fortune through a series of currency exchange booths starting in the early 1990s before founding MDM Bank and later EuroChem and SUEK.

“Sanctioning Mr Melnichenko, as happened in Europe, could disrupt EuroChem’s and SUEK’s operations and adversely affect global fertilizer supplies, which in turn could exacerbate ongoing food shortages,” he claimed in the Federal Court.

Julia Webster, an international trade lawyer and partner at the Toronto-based law firm Baker McKenzie, said Canada’s approach to Russia stands in stark contrast to other countries currently under sanctions.

Unlike sanctions on Haiti, Myanmar, Iran and Sri Lanka, Canada’s sanctions on Russia represented a “true economic decoupling” because of the economic entanglements the West had with Russia prior to its invasion of Ukraine, she said.

Canada’s sanctions list mirrors that of allies, she said.

“The sanctions were imposed with the cooperation of Canada’s allies,” Webster said. “There’s a lot of overlap in prohibition between the sanctions regimes of different countries and people who are designated on those sanctions regimes, but there are also differences, and Canada currently appears to actually have one of the strictest regimes compared to its allies.”

In March 2022, the EU imposed sanctions on Andrey Melnichenko, noting that he had attended a meeting between Putin and Russian business leaders and oligarchs on the day of the invasion of Ukraine.

“His invitation to this meeting demonstrates that he is a member of Vladimir Putin’s closest circle and that he is supporting or implementing actions or policies that undermine or threaten Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, as well as the stability and security of Ukraine, ’ said the EU.

Shortly after Andrey Melnichenko was sanctioned in the EU, Italian authorities confiscated the couple’s $600 million “Sailboat A,” but their other $300 million vessel, the Motor Yacht A, avoided a similar fate, docking Time in United Arab Emirates.

In August 2022, the United States designated Melnichenko as a “Putin enabler,” noting his past involvement in Russia’s financial services industry.

“Going public has serious social, economic and personal consequences,” the couple claimed.

Darryl Greer, Canadian Press

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