French authorities face difficulties in seizing oligarchs’ villas
Sanctions enforcers in France are struggling to seize oligarchs’ assets due to being held back by French laws.
The country’s sanctions enforcers have now frozen €850m worth of assets, including 20 villas on the Côte d’Azur.
However, French officials are currently struggling to actually seize the frozen assets, despite the EU’s “freeze and seize” policy, according to The Times.
The struggles come down to the fact that what the authorities are trying to do is nigh on impossible under French law.
Julien Martinet, founding partner at Swift Litigation, explained that authorities must have reason to believe a person has committed an offence in order to seize assets under French law.
As such, while the French government does have the power to simply freeze assets, it is not able to then seize them, unless authorities obtain a court order linked to a specific crime.
The situation means oligarchs are free to live in their villas on the French Riviera despite not being able to sell or rent them out.
Nonetheless, French police have been able to seize boats and helicopters, in situations in which the owners have sought to avoid sanctions by sailing and flying the vehicles out of the EU.
The seizures of yachts and helicopters is carried out on the grounds that by seeking to circumvent sanctions, the owners are in fact breaking the law.
At the same time, French authorities have also struggled to establish ownership, as many of the villas are owned by sanctioned individuals’ children and wives.
Frances’ struggles come as EU member states have faced various issues in enforcing sanctions on sanctioned individuals, due to legal constraints embedded within their own laws.