The son of the sanctioned oligarch and a £160m London real estate empire | Commercial real estate

The son of a Russian billionaire sanctioned for backing the dictator who controls Belarus has been linked to a £160 million portfolio of London property.

Said Gutseriev, a 34-year-old businessman of British and Russian nationality, appears to have spent years collecting a collection of at least seven properties in central London, according to the findings of a joint investigation by the Guardian and the Belarusian research center. part of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

When Said got married in 2016, Sting was one of the performers at the lavish celebrations, which took place in London and Moscow. Photo: www.instagram.com/_wedding_world/

The portfolio ranges from large office buildings in the city to a couple of £17 million townhouses in south Kensington, which have been combined to create a single residence.

Said’s father, Mikhail Gutseriev, was blacklisted last year, by the EU in June and the UK in August, months after the violent crackdown on protests that threatened to end 26 years of autocratic rule by Belarus. President Alexander Lukashenko. The British government described Gutseriev as “a long-term associate” of the president and had used his business interests to support Lukashenko’s government.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Mikhail Gutseriev light candles at a newly built church in the town of Shershuni near Minsk, Belarus.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Mikhail Gutseriev light candles at a newly built church in the town of Shershuni near Minsk, Belarus. Photo: Andrei Stasevich/Belta Pool/EPA

All of the properties examined in the investigation were purchased before Mikhail was sanctioned. Six were acquired between 2004 and 2012, when Said was in school, college, or just starting his career at FTSE 100 commodities trader Glencore. Said attended £14,500 a semester at Harrow School before studying at Oxford.

Leaked documents show Said got a head start thanks to his family’s wealth. One of the properties eventually appears to belong to a trust his father set up in 2007. Said was listed as a beneficiary of the trust in official papers from 2008 and 2009 seen by the Guardian. The paperwork also lists him as the beneficiary of a second trust, established in 2004 by his grandmother, Marem Gutserieva. Said has an interest in Russneft, the Russian oil company that was partially owned by his father until he sold his interest to his brother in August 2021.

A spokesman for Said Gutseriev said he has no financial or commercial ties to his father and always acts in accordance with applicable law, including sanctions. The spokesperson did not dispute Said’s ownership of any of the properties.

The information on assets linked to him in the UK raises questions about whether sanctions should be imposed on family members.

85 Fleet Street in the City of London.
85 Fleet Street in the City of London. Photo: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Tom Keatinge, director of the Center for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the think tank Rusi, said: “One of the challenges Western countries will now face is identifying the true extent of assets to be frozen under sanction regimes. It’s reasonable to look closely at assets owned by relatives — not just asset purchases in recent years, but past transfers as well.”

The properties that appear to be linked to Said were discovered in analysis by Transparency International, an anti-corruption watchdog, using data from Land Registry, UK Companies House and offshore leaks obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Most were bought through companies based in the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven where business owners can hide.

They contain:

  • A £19 million office building called the Gloucester Building on Avonmore Road.

  • Austin Friars House, London, a £41 million office building in the center of the City of London.

  • 82-85 Fleet Street, London, a £70 million office building in the City of London.

  • 64-65 Vincent Square, London, an £8.7 million office block near Victoria train station.

  • A pair of £17 million Grade II listed, stucco-clad townhouses renovated into a single residence on Queen’s Gate Place, just south of Hyde Park.

  • A £2.5 million stable block in Petersham Mews, Kensington.

  • A £5.7 million mansion on Green Street in Mayfair.

The Queen’s Gate Place house, a Grade II listed building near the Natural History Museum in London, has been used by Said as his main residence in London. It underwent an extensive renovation in 2013, with planning documents featuring ornate gold-painted walls, elaborately carved cornices, classically painted murals, and chandeliers.

Queen's Gate Place SW7
Queen’s Gate Place in South Kensington. Photo: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Another property, Lilly House at 13 Hanover Square in London, was sold in November last year for £69 million.

Said’s net worth is estimated at $1.3 billion (£1 billion) by Forbes, a valuation the magazine says was based on interests in oil, coal, retail and financial companies, some of which were previously owned by his father.

Said is the largest shareholder in SFI, a Russian company formerly called Safmar Financial Investments in which Mikhail was previously a “controlling shareholder,” according to annual reports. Mikhail served on the board of SFI with his son until November 2021. SFI has a stake in Russneft and in the online retailer M.Video, a company originally bought by the father.

In the past year, Said is said to have severed some financial ties with companies previously associated with his father, as well as with Russia and Belarus. He reportedly resigned in August 2021 as head of ForteInvest, an oil refinery company where he was named chief executive in 2014 at the age of 26. A company press release said Forteinvest was not owned by his father’s Safmar Group until late 2020. In August 2021, according to local media, he sold his stake in Belarus-based cryptocurrency exchange Currency.com.

64-65 Vincent Square, SW1
64-65 Vincent Square in Westminster. Photo: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Ben Cowdock, head of research for Transparency International UK, said: “Money tracking is critical to avoid financial sanctions bite. Those targeted by sanctions may have shared their wealth with family, friends and acquaintances.”

Said studied archeology and anthropology at St Peter’s College, Oxford, and in 2019 the university created a Gutseriev scholarship after donating £2.6 million. When he married in 2016, Sting, Jennifer Lopez and Enrique Iglesias performed at the lavish celebrations, which took place in London and Moscow.

Gutseriev’s spokesman said: “Mr. Said Gutseriev has no financial or commercial ties to Mr. Mikhail Gutseriev and cannot be called a business partner of his father. To suggest otherwise is factually incorrect. Mr Said Gutseriev is a British citizen and resident, he fully understands the scope and application of sanctions against his father, and always acts in accordance with applicable law.

“Any suggestion that he holds funds or assets for, or makes funds or assets available to, his father is factually incorrect. He has no financial or business ties to any sanctioned persons or entities and acts in full compliance with UK sanctions. To suggest otherwise is factually incorrect.

“Mr Said Gutseriev is not a political figure and has no personal or financial ties to the Russian or Belarusian governments.

“He calls for a peaceful solution to the fighting in Ukraine and condemns the alleged human rights violations. All cases of human rights violations should be tried under international law and anyone found guilty should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

Mikhail Gutseriev did not respond to requests for comment.

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