The National Crime Agency (NCA) in the UK has decided to drop its investigation into allegations of sanctions evasion by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, according to Bloomberg. The NCA spokesperson stated that the investigation was halted due to technical errors found in the search warrant. However, the spokesperson also clarified that the inquiry is still ongoing with regards to associated suspects linked to the wider investigation.
The probe focused on Fridman, who is the founder of Alfa Bank, the largest privately owned lender in Russia. The investigation centered around an alleged loan payment from Alfa Bank to Fridman’s executive assistant before he was sanctioned. The NCA’s decision to drop the investigation against Fridman comes after the prosecutors accepted the existence of technical errors in the search warrant.
In December, the NCA made headlines when it conducted a raid at Fridman’s mansion in north London. Over 50 officers participated in the operation, which resulted in the arrest of Fridman. During the raid, authorities seized digital devices and a significant amount of cash.
Fridman argued that the raid was unlawful and based on “kompromat,” including a 15-year-old report containing unproven criminal allegations. The Financial Times reported in April that the NCA had already ceased investigating two out of the three allegations against Fridman. The probes for conspiracy to commit perjury and conspiracy to defraud the Home Office were dropped, but the investigation into alleged money laundering continued.
Last year, Fridman faced sanctions in the UK, EU, and Canada, and his name was added to the US sanctioned individuals list in 2023. Following the imposition of sanctions, Fridman, along with other founders of Alfa Group, resigned from the board of directors of the holding and announced plans to sell his stake in the company.
The dropping of the investigation against Fridman is a significant development in this case. However, it is important to note that the overall inquiry into sanctions evasion is still ongoing, focusing on associated suspects. The NCA’s decision highlights the importance of proper legal procedures and the need to ensure accuracy in search warrants.
As of now, it remains to be seen if any charges will be brought against the associated suspects and how the investigation will proceed. The outcome of this case will have implications not only for Fridman but also for others potentially involved in sanctions evasion.
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