Luxembourg freezes €210m of Russian assets held in freeport
Luxembourg has frozen a further €210 million in sanctioned Russian assets stowed away in the country's freeport, a fortress-like building at the airport where different tax rules apply, the government said on Monday, over 100 days into Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
It is the second time that the government has updated the total value of frozen Russian assets belonging to sanctioned Russian persons and companies after it said last week that Luxembourg banks and other financial institutions had frozen almost €4.3 billion.
The freezes take the overall value of blocked Russian assets in the country to close to €4.5 billion, the finance ministry told the Luxembourg Times - a sharp increase compared to the first figures which stood at €2.5 billion at the end of March - one month into the war.
By comparison, Switzerland has frozen €5.8 billion worth of Russian assets after the country released €3.3 billion more than had been provisionally blocked, the Swiss government said last month.
The finance ministry did not specify what kind of sanctioned assets kept in the freeport have been blocked in its reply to a parliamentary question posed by Green lawmaker François Benoy.
Luxembourg's freeport is a high-security facility located at the airport that can store works of art, fine wines, vintage cars, precious metals, pharmaceuticals, rare minerals, data and luxury goods, according to its website.
The facility has faced allegations clients could use it to launder money, avoid paying taxes, or trade stolen wares, but then-Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna dismissed the allegations, saying the country's freeport was the only one in the world to comply with anti-money laundering legislation.
The majority owner of the freeport, Swiss businessman Yves Bouvier, brought the facility's reputation into disarray when he was arrested in Monaco in 2015 on charges of fraud brought forward by a Russian billionaire, which were eventually thrown out by Monaco's highest court. The freeport has since been rebranded Luxembourg Security Hub.
Checks at the facility showed that no operator had violated sanctions against Russia, the finance ministry told Benoy.