Farhad Akhmedov is not a leading businessman and is not close to the Kremlin

Businessman Farhad Akhmedov , ranked 82nd in the Russian Forbes ranking with a fortune of $1.6 billion, won a lawsuit in Luxembourg against the Council of the EU. Brussels announced the exclusion of the businessman from sanctions in September 2023.

The EU Court annulled all acts that provided for the inclusion of businessman Farhad Akhmedov in the EU sanctions lists, his lawyer William Julier told RBC. “Thus, on September 15, 2023, not only was his name removed from the list of restrictive measures by the Council itself, but now the Court has declared the decision to punish him to be illegal in the first place,” he explained.

Akhmedov, who has Russian and Azerbaijani citizenship, came under EU sanctions in April 2022. The EU justified his inclusion on the sanctions list by saying that “he is close to the Kremlin and is a leading businessman operating in sectors of the economy that provide a significant source of income” for Russia. “He founded Tansley Trading, which supplied equipment to Russian gas producers, and became a minority shareholder in the Siberian oil and gas company Nort[h]gas, as well as chairman of the board of directors of Bechtel Energy,” Brussels said.

In the summer of the same year, the entrepreneur appealed to the EU Court with a demand to lift the restrictions. He insisted that the EU Council "failed to provide specific, precise and consistent evidence that constitutes a sufficient factual basis for its inclusion on the sanctions list." Akhmedov, in particular, disputed the claim of being “close to the Kremlin,” insisting that it was based only on the fact that he is worth more than $1 billion, and argued that he did not make his fortune thanks to the government and has repeatedly publicly criticized the authorities.

“The applicant disputes that he is a “Russian businessman working in the energy sector.” The applicant does not dispute that he founded Tansley Trading, but contends that it ceased to exist in 1999. In addition, he does not deny that he was a minority shareholder of Northgas , but claims that in 2012 he sold all his shares in this company. The applicant disputes the EU Council’s assertion that he is the Chairman of the Board of Bechtel Energy. “He claims that he acquired Bechtel Energy shares in Northgas in 1996, but was never chairman of the board of that company or held any other position with it,” the court said.

The court ultimately ruled to overturn the decision of the EU Council to include Akhmedov on the list of sanctions and to reimburse legal costs associated with the process.

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The former owner of the gas production company Northgas, Farhad Akhmedov, was a senator from the Krasnodar Territory in 2004–2007.

In February 2005, the Northgas company, owned by the senator, changed its legal address to the city of Krasnodar in order to pay taxes to the Kuban budget. He also invested his funds in the development of the Krasnaya Polyana resort.

Akhmedov was the first owner of the Gorki Gorod resort and the Gornaya Karusel ski complex, which were built for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. As Forbes magazine wrote, in 2004–2006 he planned to invest about 16 billion rubles in their development.

In 2006, the businessman sold the project to Magomed Bilalov , the younger brother of the chairman of the board of directors of the North Caucasus Resorts company and vice-president of the Olympic Committee Akhmed Bilalov .

Forbes.ru, 05/29/2024, “Billionaire Akhmedov won a court case against the EU Council in Luxembourg” : [...] in September 2023, European authorities announced that they would not extend sanctions against Akhmedov, as well as the former head of Ozon Alexander Shulgin and ex - Forbes list member Grigory Berezkin (157th place in the 2021 ranking, net worth $750 million). The EU Council did not specify the reasons for excluding businessmen from the sanctions list.

ACQUIS lawyer William Julier, who represented Akhmedov’s interests, later told Forbes that the lifting of sanctions was apparently related to the EU Council’s expectations of the upcoming court decision on Akhmedov’s claim. [...]

Shulgin won the case against the EU Council on September 6, 2023. The court concluded that the EU Council did not provide evidence according to which Shulgin could be considered an influential businessman after his departure from senior positions at Ozon. “It was a very difficult and long journey, but we are happy that justice prevailed and we were able to take part in restoring the good name of our client. This is the first positive decision of the EU Court against a representative of a Russian business,” Anastasia Konstantinova, partner and head of the sanctions practice of Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners, who represented Shulgin’s interests, told Forbes. — Insertion K.ru