A £550,000 armoured Mercedes that can withstand machinegun fire and grenade attacks belonging to Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov has been seized in Sardinia.
The seizure is part of EU sanctions against billionaires with close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, in an effort to get them to put pressure on the despot to call an end to his brutal war in Ukraine.
According to reports in Italy, the Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Guard VR10 was seized by police in Porto Cervo on the Costa Smeralda – a luxury location in the north of the island that is said to be a playground for billionaires.
A £550,000 armoured Mercedes Maybach (similar model pictured) that can withstand machinegun fire and grenade attacks belonging to Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov has been seized in Sardinia
Italian outlet Corriere della Sera suggested that the car would have been used to transport visiting dignitaries – including Putin himself – during ‘secret visits’.
Calling the reason behind the car being on the island a ‘mystery’, Corriere also speculated the the car could have been used by Dmitry Medvedev, the former President of Russia, or perhaps even Putin’s daughters when visiting the island.
Usmanov is said to have close ties with Arzachena, the administrative centre of Porto Cervo. Corriere said the former shareholder of Arsenal football club is an honorary citizen of Arzachena, where he purchased the bulletproof car in 2018.
The Sardinian outlet reported that the car’s tyres are huge, built to withstand not only the five-tonne weight of the car, but also potential attacks including by machine-gun fire and explosives. They are designed to be used even when burst.
The windows, it said, are about 4 inches thick and can only be moved with pneumatic motors as electric ones would not be powerful enough. The doors, meanwhile, can only open with the assistance of hydraulic pistons.
Armour plating reinforces the car, as does a single floor panel that runs the length of the huge vehicle. Mercedes has claimed that the car could withstand two hand grenades going off at the same time, according to The Times.
The newspaper also said that passengers can press a button that emits an ‘ear piercing’ alarm, while a communications system to outside the car is in-built.
In the event of a gas attack, the car also has an air filtration system.
The car is fitting for Usmanov who would regularly host ‘heads of state, businessmen and personalities,’ Roberto Ragnedda, the mayor of Arzachena, told the Italian press earlier this month.
The seizure of the armoured car is part of EU sanctions against billionaires with close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, in an effort to get them to put pressure on the despot to call an end to his brutal war in Ukraine. Pictured: Usmanov with Putin in 2018
Alisher Usmanov talks to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich after a match between Chelsea and Arsenal in 2009. Both have faced EU sanctions since Putin launched his war in Ukraine
He said the oligarch’s guests ‘played fundamental roles in the economy, culture, politics and property at a world level’.
Corriere also reported that Usmanov has previously donated €500,000 (£425,000) to Sardinia’s local authorities to help them in their fight against Covid-19.
Other reports in Italy have said the billionaire, worth an estimated £15 billion, saw other assets seized on Sardinia as well, including six more cars and a property complex worth £14.5 million found in the Gulf of Pevero (just south of Porto Cervo).
Earlier this month, Italy seized a £97 million property complex owned by Russia’s official richest man Alexei Mordashov.
It was the second time this month that assets belonging to Mordashov had been seized in Italy. Police on March 4 impounded his 215 ft yacht, the ‘Lady M’, which had a price tag of 65 million euros.
In the last two weeks, Italian police have sequestered villas and yachts worth more than 780 million of euros from seven wealthy Russians who were placed on a European Union sanctions lists following the assault on Ukraine.
The most valuable asset seized so far is a superyacht owned by billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko, which is worth around 530 million euros and was impounded in the northern port of Trieste last Saturday.
The other Russians targeted so far in Italy are Vladimir Soloviev, Gennady Timchenko, Oleg Savchenko, Petr Aven.
Last week, it was claimed that Usmanov may have put some of his most valuable UK properties out of the law’s reach before being sanctioned.
The Russian businessman is thought to own at least six properties in the UK, including a stunning 19th Century north London mansion worth £48million.
The 68-year-old is also linked to a 16th Century Surrey estate – thought to be worth as much as £34million.
The Russian businessman who is believed to be worth nearly £15 billion, is thought to own at least six properties in the UK, including a stunning 19th Century London mansion worth £48million (pictured: Beechwood House in Hampstead)
The former Arsenal FC stakeholder is also linked to a 16th Century Surrey estate – Sutton Place (pictured) – thought to be worth as much as £34million
British ministers sanctioned Usmanov, a metal, telecoms and media magnate, earlier this month because of his ‘close links to the Kremlin’.
But a spokesperson for the billionaire, who was until recently a key backer of Everton football club, said most of his properties in Britain had been transferred into trusts.
He said the property assets, as well as his yacht, had been ‘transferred into irrevocable trusts’ to benefit his family prior to the sanctions being imposed.
‘From that point on, Mr Usmanov did not own them, nor was he able to manage them or deal with their sale, but could only use them on a rental basis, the spokesman said. ‘Mr Usmanov withdrew from the beneficiaries of the trusts, donating his beneficial rights to his family,’ he added.