Usmanov's £550,000 armoured Mercedes Maybach is seized in Sardinia

Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov’s £550,000 armoured Mercedes Maybach which can withstand machinegun and grenade attacks is seized in Sardinia

  • The Mercedes-Maybach S 650 Guard VR10 was seized by police in Porto Cervo 
  • Italian news suggested the car was been used during visits by Vladimir Putin
  • The seizure is part of EU sanctions against billionaires with close ties to Putin 
  • Usmanov is one of several Russian billionaires to have their assets seized in Italy 

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.  

The son of an Uzbek state prosecutor who was once jailed for fraud before rising to become one of Russia’s richest oligarchs: Who is Alisher Usmanov?

Born in 1953 in the then Soviet-controlled Uzbek city of Churst, a relatively small settlement of around 70,000, nestled in the Fergana Valley to the north east of the country, Usmanov spent much of his childhood in the capital of Tashkent.

Usmanov, whose father was a state prosecutor, initially pursued a career as a diplomat and moved to Moscow, where he studied International Law.

He returned to Tashkent in 1980 and was later arrested and convicted on charges of fraud and ‘theft of socialist property’. He was imprisoned for six years of an eight-year sentence and his conviction was later vacated and ruled ‘unjust’ by the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

But even prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Usmanov was on the road to success. He had become a millionaire after setting up a privately-owned for-profit company, which produced plastic bags. He became even richer after the collapse of the USSR.

He began getting involved in politics when he became the Adviser to the General Director of Moscow Aviation Industrial Enterprise. Towards the end of the 1990s Usmanov was the General Director of Gazprom Invest Holdings, the investment-holding subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned gas company Gazprom. He managed the firm for a decade before leaving in 2014.

His main income is in USM. Usmanov has a 49 per cent economic interest and 100 per cent voting rights in USM, a global conglomerate with its main investments in metals and mining industry, telecommunications, technology, and media.   

He is also the co-owner of, Metalloinvest, which he founded along with business partner Vasiliy Anisimov, in order to manage his acquisitions in the metal industry. Usmanov also has assets in Australia-based mining companies.  

He also is the co-owner of Russia’s second-largest mobile telephone operator, MegaFon, and previously held shares in Arsenal FC.  He and his business partner Farhad Moshiri bought the stake in the club owned by former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein for £75 million.  

In January 2017, Usmanov’s holding company, USM, entered into a five-year, £12million deal with Everton FC, which is majority owned by Moshiri, for the naming rights of the club’s training ground. 

In 2019 Megafon became the sleeve sponsor for the men’s training wear of and its official matchday presenting partner.

Usmanov has no biological children. He has a stepson with his wife Irina Viner. His step-son ia a real-estate investor, currently constructing 30 real estate projects.

Alongside business interest, Usmanov owns an extensive list of properties, including Beechwood House in London and Sutton Place in Surrey, valued at a combined $280 million. He also has luxury homes in Munich, Lausanne, Monaco and Sardinia. 

The EU, in sanctioning Usmanov, described the 68-year-old as a ‘pro-Kremlin oligarch with particularly close ties to [the] Russian president’. 

Usmanov meanwhile has says his sanctioning by the EU is ‘unfair’ and that the reasons to justify the sanctions are ‘false and defamatory’. 

He has previously welcomed links with Putin, telling Forbes in 2010: ‘I am proud that I know Putin, and the fact that everybody does not like him is not Putin’s problem.

‘I don’t think the world loved Truman after Nagasaki.’

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