Mansion in Austrian Kitzbühel Bought by Sanctioned Russian Oligarch

PeopleOther ♦ Published: June 21, 2023; 14:39 ♦ (Vindobona)

Russian oligarch and confidant of President Vladimir Putin, Arkady Rotenberg, is said to have financed a house in Kitzbühel, where Putin's daughter is also said to have spent time, according to media reports.

Internal documents suggest that Putin confidant Arkady Rotenberg financed the purchase of a chalet in Kitzbühel. / Picture: © Wikipedia / Roitner

According to internal documents cited by the Standard and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the money for the purchase of the villa was provided by a Cypriot company associated with Rotenberg.

Sanctions were already imposed on Putin's childhood friend by the EU and the U.S. in 2014. According to the report, the house in Kitzbühel belongs to the Cypriot company Wayblue Investments Limited, based in Nicosia. According to the research, the purchase was financed by a loan from Cyprus-based Olpon Investments, which Rotenberg has owned since 2003. Olpon transferred 11.5 million euros to the then Meridian Trade Bank in Latvia, which in turn was attributable to the Rotenbergs, reports suggest. The money went from there to Wayblue. It is unclear who owns the Wayblue company. According to the report, the shell company is controlled by another Cypriot shell company.

The shell company is controlled by another Cypriot company called Velidom Limited. This is a so-called trust service provider that manages assets for third parties. At the time of the real estate purchase, two other trust service providers were registered as owners of Wayblue, again the actual ownership cannot be found out.

As the Standard reported, Neighbors, however, had indicated that Putin's daughter Maria Voronza was repeatedly seen in the house. This strengthens the suspicion that Arkady Rotenberg may have financed the purchase of the luxury property to do Vladimir Putin a favor - by making it available to his family.

The Austrian State Protection and Intelligence Directorate (DSN) has been unsuccessfully trying to determine the true owner of the property since April 2022. The city of Kitzbühel also appears clueless, although the Tyrolean opposition politician Markus Sint (List Fritz) has long demanded clarification. No one has been registered at the address since 2013, according to a letter from the city to Sint in the spring of last year.

Mayor Klaus Winkler (ÖVP) withdrew his promise to talk to the Standard . In writing, he merely let it be known in response to a long list of questions: "It is not known whether persons sanctioned by the EU have real estate assets in Kitzbühel." Nothing is known about the owners of Wayblue and no reference to the involvement of Russian persons can be found.

In any case, an Austrian real estate company sold the property in January 2013 for 10.8 million euros to the Cypriot company Wayblue Investments Limited. Since then, the chalet has belonged to this company, which has its headquarters in Nicosia. In Austria, Wayblue Investments is represented by Josef Wieser, a lawyer licensed to practice in Russia and specializing, among other things, in EU sanctions.

Childhood friends

The relationship between Putin and Rotenberg is an extremely close one. The two have been friends since their youth in St. Petersburg, when they trained in judo together. Since then, Putin has risen to become president, and Rotenberg has become the "king of state contracts."

Thanks to billion-dollar deals with the Russian state, Rotenberg became rich. His fortune is estimated at more than three billion euros. Probably the most important order: the construction of the prestigious bridge to the Crimea, which the oligarch built at Putin's request and was named a "Hero of Labor" for it. In the end, the project was the reason for the EU to sanction the oligarch.

Reactions on the part of Austrian political parties

Stephanie Krisper, the NEOS spokeswoman for internal affairs, lamented Austria's low level of involvement in the Russia sanctions. She said the case once again confirms that more extensive research and investigation would be possible if sufficiently qualified personnel were available. "The fact that the federal government has done nothing so far suggests that it has no increased interest in harming Russia," Krisper said, according to ORF.

The Greens are asking big questions in light of the case. "It is incomprehensible to me why investigative journalists have to do the research work that should be the responsibility of state authorities - in this case, the Interior Ministry," said MP Nina Tomaselli, according to ORF.

MP Kai Jan Krainer (SPÖ) demanded, according to ORF, that "trustees must disclose the true beneficial owner in sanction matters". If this does not happen, the authorities should have a reasonable presumption that a sanctioned Russian is the owner, which should result in the freezing of assets.