'Banker to Putin's inner circle' arrested on suspicion of money laundering after speaking out against Ukraine war | The Sun

A RUSSIAN billionaire who spoke out against Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine has been arrested in London on suspicion of money laundering, according to reports.

Businessman Mikhail Fridman – described as an "enabler of Putin’s inner circle" – is understood to also be accused of conspiracy to defraud the Home Office and conspiracy to commit perjury.

The UK’s National Crime Agency said a "wealthy Russian businessman" had been arrested on Thursday in his plush London mansion.

He has now been identified as Mikhail Fridman, the founder of one of Moscow's largest banks, by Russian state media.

An insider told TASS news agency: "Fridman was detained on suspicion of violating sanctions imposed on him."

More than 50 officers swooped on the multi-million pound property as the oligarch was snared by the NCA.

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Two others were also arrested, and the NCA – which did not name Fridman – said officers seized "a number of digital devices and a significant quantity of cash".

Fridman, who founded Russia’s largest private bank, Alfa Bank, was hit by Western sanctions after Putin ordered Russia to invade Ukraine in February.

He had, however, spoken out against the war – calling it a "tragedy" for both sides.

Fridman, 58, wrote: "I am convinced that war can never be the answer.

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"This crisis will cost lives and damage two nations who have been brothers for hundreds of years.”

After making the statement, Fridman feared returning to Russia, saying could be "dangerous" for him.

The EU then slapped sanctions on Fridman – a UK tax resident – at the end of February.

It said Fridman – who was raised in the Soviet Union after being born in the Ukrainian city of Lviv – has been "referred to as a top Russian financier and enabler of Putin's inner circle".

The billionaire resigned from Alfa Bank's board of directors after being hit with the sanctions.

But Fridman, whose parents are Ukrainian citizens, argued the penalties would not sway Putin.

He told Bloomberg in March: "If the people who are in charge in the EU believe that because of sanctions, I could approach Mr. Putin and tell him to stop the war, and it will work, then I’m afraid we’re all in big trouble.

"That means those who are making this decision understand nothing about how Russia works. And that’s dangerous for the future."

After his reported arrested, Fridman was questioned before being released on bail.

A 35-year-old man, employed at the London home, was also arrested nearby on suspicion of money laundering and obstruction of an NCA officer after he was seen leaving the address with a bag found to contain thousands of pounds in cash.

A third man, 39, who is the former boyfriend of the businessman’s current partner, was arrested at his home in Pimlico, London, for offences including money laundering and conspiracy to defraud.

They too have been released on bail.

Graeme Biggar, Director General of the NCA, said: “The NCA’s Combatting Kleptocracy Cell, only established this year, is having significant success investigating potential criminal activity by oligarchs, the professional service providers that support and enable them and those linked to the Russian regime.

“We will continue to use all the powers and tactics available to us to disrupt this threat.”

The NCA said its operation was the latest in a string of busts in its work to disrupt the activities of corrupt international business figures and their enablers.

To date, the NCA says it has secured nearly 100 "disruptions" – actions that demonstrably remove or reduce a criminal threat – against Putin-linked elites and their enablers.

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The authority added that its work has assisted in freezing accounts held by individuals who are closely linked to sanctioned Russians.

The NCA said its investigations have targeted numerous properties, eight yachts and four aircraft.

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