France seizes Roman Abramovich’s £90m Riviera villa


French authorities have seized Roman Abramovich’s stunning villa in the south of France which once belonged to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as part of a crackdown on Russian oligarchs amid the invasion of Ukraine.

Château de la Croë is situated on one of the most prestigious parts of the French Riviera – the Cap d’Antibes – and local estate agents estimate it is worth around £90million.

Constructed in 1926, the elegant villa comes complete with over a dozen bedrooms, eight bathrooms and is set in 12 acres of lush woodland and lavish lawns just metres from the Mediterranean sea.

Abramovich spent some £30million restoring the Château after he bought it in 2001, building a 15 metre swimming pool on the roof and inserting a huge gym and home cinema in the basement to create the ultimate billionaire’s play pad.

But before one of Putin’s favourite money-men moved in, the incredible property was used as a holiday home by the former King of England Edward VIII and American socialite Wallis Simpson – better known as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor became owners of the Château de la Croë in 1938 after King Edward VIII abdicated the throne.

The villa became one of the couple’s favourite retreats and was also used on several occasions to host highly esteemed guests.

Winston Churchill, the famous Prime Minister who successfully led Britain to victory through the Second World War, celebrated his 40th wedding anniversary with the Duke and Duchess in the villa in 1948 before the Château was sold two years later.

The villa’s seizure by French authorities came as part of an enormous operation which has seen more than £20billion worth of cash, properties and other assets belonging to Russian oligarchs confiscated or frozen in recent weeks, France’s Economy and Finance Ministry confirmed today.

A ministry source said the villa was among 12 properties belonging to the former Chelsea Football Club owner which were seized, most of which were bought using specially created French companies.

‘[The seized assets] include homes, superyachts and helicopters, and add up to well over 25 billion euros,’ said the source.

Freezing property assets mean they cannot be sold or used for rental income, the source explained.

‘There are 33 properties that have been frozen, including a dozen belonging to Roman Abramovich.

‘It is all part of the programme of sanctions being brought against the Russian Federation in response to its invasion of Ukraine.’

The figures also include the equivalent of some £19billion in cash blocked on the French accounts of Russia’s Central Bank.

Mr Abramovich’s sprawling estate on the Caribbean island of St Barts – an island partly governed by France as an overseas territory – is also among the assets seized.

Property has also been taken in the Alpine ski resort of Meribel, as well as other world famous Riviera resorts such as Saint-Tropez and Cannes.

The French finance ministry has formed a task force made up of tax inspectors and customs officials to identify and confiscate property owned by Russians on an EU sanction list.

It came as France also expelled six alleged Russian spies ‘operating under diplomatic cover’.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the men and woman had been sent back to Moscow following lengthy investigation by the DGSI domestic security agency.

Their inquiry uncovered ‘a secret operation conducted by Russian intelligence services on French soil,’ said the source.

There was no immediate comment from Mr Abramovich, 55, who has also had assets including Chelsea Football Club frozen by the British government.

A close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, he is currently believed to be in Moscow.

As Abramovich sees his assets seized, several billionaire prospective buyers are competing to take ownership of his beloved Chelsea.

Four known bids are still under consideration to buy Chelsea, which could be sold for around £3billion given the interest that has emerged since Abramovich put the west London Premier League club up for sale.

The British government must sign off on the sale, which is being overseen by the New York-based Raine Group merchant bank, under the terms that allow the team to continue operating since Abramovich was sanctioned.

But Abramovich cannot profit from the any of the proceeds of the sale.

‘Our role is to consider an application for an amended license that authorises a sale of the club when it comes forward with a preferred bidder,’ the British government said in a statement.

Chelsea has won 21 trophies in 19 years of Abramovich ownership, relying on his lavish investment to become one of Europe´s most successful clubs.

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