Russian oligarchs continue to lose: not only by sanctions but by their former wives. Natalia Tsagolova, the wife of the fugitive Russian oligarch Ashot Yegiazaryan, recently froze half of his assets in a bank in Monaco.
The Monaco Court of Appeal’s decision to freeze $94 million in favour of Tsagolova added to the ever-growing legal problems that Yegiazaryan has been facing both in his former homeland and abroad. Currently, he is being sued for more than $300 million by a variety of parties, including his spouse Tsagolova, his former business partner Vitaly Smagin, and others.
In the late 1990s – early 2000s, Yegiazaryan built his wealth by investing in various Russian businesses, including real estate, banking and others.
However, instead of registering all family assets under his name, Yegiazaryan, who was also a three-time elected member of the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament where he represented scandalous Liberal Democrats, made use of his political connections and offshore structures to register his property in the names of nominees, which included his relatives, controversial partners, and figureheads.
In 2010, Yegiazaryan was accused of fraud in regard to his business partner Vitaly Smagin connected to the development of a luxury “Europark” retail mall in Moscow.
Yegiazaryan guaranteed him a 20% ownership part in the enterprise; instead, Smagin ended up with nothing.
To evade prosecution, Yegiazaryan fled Russia to the United States, where he continues to hide these days as a criminal investigation goes on in Russia.
A Russian court found Yegiazaryan and some other individuals, including his brother Artem, guilty of share fraud in 2018 and sentenced him to eight years in prison, even though he was not present for the trial, and put him on INTERPOL’s red notice list.
The courts have gone beyond the Russian borders since then. Smagin filed a claim against Yegiazaryan before the London Court of International Arbitration, which awarded him in 2014 $84 million for 20% ownership in the Europark shopping mall. This award was later recognized and enforced by Smagin in both the USA and Liechtenstein.
Smagin is also credited as having been the driving force behind the filing of a complaint against Yegiazaryan for his criminal activity in the United States under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which the Supreme Court of the U.S. is currently considering after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favour of Smagin.
As for Tsagolova, she filed a divorce and division of spousal property claim against her husband in 2020 with the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles after she learned that Yegiazaryan had had an adulterous affair with his personal secretary. In her claim, she states that she is entitled to half of the family’s assets acquired during the marriage.
Tsagolova is also pursuing similar claims in other jurisdictions including France, Cyprus, Liechtenstein and Russia, where Ashot hid the family assets in the names of his relatives and cronies.
Yegiazaryan also allegedly forced her to leave a family mansion they owned in Moscow, Russia together with their children after a raid involving Chechen men from a private security agency in July 2021.
The fact that Yegiazaryan’s overseas assets, including the Liechtenstein trust, the villa on Côte d’Azur as well as two residential mansions in California and one in Russia, are at the core of Tsagolova’s claim in the USA, are also vulnerable to claims by his bankruptcy creditors, could further complicate the scenario he is currently in.
Even though Yegiazaryan’s legal fights are still ongoing, he continues to conceal himself in the States. Due to the ongoing criminal investigation against him, he is unable to leave the USA, where he doesn’t even have citizenship claiming to be a “political refugee”.
It remains to be seen how the legal battles of Yegiazaryan’s creditors develop, but one thing is clear – in light of the freezing order in Monaco, justice will be served on him very soon.