German police have raided several properties understood to belong to the Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, including his villa on Tegernsee lake in the southern state of Bavaria, on suspicion of money laundering and violations of EU sanctions.
A special unit consisting of over 250 police officers on Wednesday morning searched properties registered to a Russian citizen at three addresses in the municipality of Rottach-Egern in Upper Bavaria, the Munich state prosecutor said in a statement.
Reports by the news magazine Der Spiegel and the broadcaster Bayrischer Rundfunk identified the individual as Usmanov, an ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
In the operation, which was still ongoing on Wednesday morning, properties were also raided in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, and Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany.
Usmanov, an early Facebook investor who made his fortune in mining and sports, has been hit with sanctions and asset freezes by the European Union, the US, the UK and Switzerland over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Munich state prosecutor said a Russian citizen on the EU sanctions list of 28 February had violated Germany’s foreign trade law by continuing to pay a security firm to watch over his properties in Upper Bavaria, thus violating the asset freeze.
The public prosecutor in Germany’s financial capital, Frankfurt, which was also involved in the raids, told the Guardian it was investigating the same individual on suspicion of money laundering, over suspicious transactions linked to offshore accounts.
The 71-year-old Russian citizen, the Frankfurt prosecutor said in a statement, was suspected of making financial transactions of several million euros between 2017 and 2022 with the overriding goal of disguising the funds’ origins.
“The suspicion is that the transferred funds were gained through criminal activities, especially through tax evasion offences,” the prosecutor said.
The spokesperson said the investigations were triggered by the Panama Papers, a leak of 11.5m files from the database of offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca, obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with a consortium of international media organisations including the Guardian.
According to Der Spiegel, the aim of the raid at the Bavarian properties was also to seize evidence of tax evasion.
Usmanov, once said to be the UK’s richest person and a former shareholder of the English football team Arsenal, is suspected of evading several hundreds of millions of euros of tax in Germany.
Having resided predominantly in the prosperous Tegernsee municipality from 2014 to 2022, the German authorities believe Usmanov owes the state income and gift tax payments amounting to about €555m, Spiegel reported.
The oligarch, who is believed to have relocated to Uzbekistan since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has already lost control of his superyacht, the world’s largest by tonnage.
The $600m (£458m) Dilbar yacht was seized by German federal police in April, following weeks of financial investigative work that exposed the yacht’s true ownership as a web of “offshore concealment”.