Sergei Pugachev gave a comment to the correspondent of The Times David Brown.
– Ms Tolstoy had a difﬁcult life and childhood. She was the ﬁrst child of four. Her father was bankrupted and they had no place to live. She’d been sent to boarding school and from the beginning, she’d had a complex about poverty.
We met in Moscow during the most difﬁcult moment in her life, when she was giving English lessons. She was not a professional teacher. But it was a way for her to earn a living.
She’d already been living in Russia for 15 years and had had a difﬁcult life there. She was married but had no kids. But she seemed to me absolutely lovely and charming. I was working a lot and had no occasion to meet people.
It turned out, however, her aim in life was to obtain luxury, wealth and glamour. And to meet with me was a unique opportunity for her to realise her dreams. Everything was at her disposal: Private yachts, clothes, no-limit titanium credit cards. She could choose whatever she wanted. Everything was paid for and clothes were delivered at home.
In 2009, our ﬁrst child was born. It was obvious that Alexandra had a completely new life with a huge staff: cooks, nannies, drivers. She became quickly very used to that. She could lose jewellery worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, forget to take clothes she’d bought from Chanel.
In 2010, I’d left Moscow to return to live in France. The pressure had slowly started to mount against me. Putin and his team had turned against me. I was not considered loyal enough, despite everything I’d done for Putin, right down to bringing him to power. Igor Sechin, Putin’s closest lieutenant, wanted my shipyards. Another Putin ally Alexei Mordashov wanted my coking coal company. And piece by piece Putin’s men took over my business empire, rigging court decisions and forcing the bankruptcy of Mezhprombank, the bank I co-founded. They took everything without any compensation. Then, they fabricated a case against me, claiming the Mezhprombank bankruptcy was my fault.
I was under tremendous pressure. By 2012, I was working day and night with lawyers to try and defend myself against the claims. Till then, I’d been spending most of my time in France. But from that year I spent most of my time in London where the team of lawyers had been assembled. It was an extremely important moment for me. I was ﬁghting for my life against Putin, against the expropriation of my assets. But she was not interested in the court cases, which then expanded into the London courts where the Russian government obtained a freezing order against all my assets, based on a rigged Russian court case. She understood nothing about what was happening with me. She understood that Putin had seized something but she didn’t understand the extent of the calamity. She was living in Chelsea, going to all the expensive clubs I’d arranged for her to be a member of, and most of the time looking to acquire ever more expensive real estate. The ﬁrst house she’d wanted to buy in Chelsea was worth £60m and it needed tens of millions of pounds more in investment to renovate it. But what she wanted most of all, it seems, was to be in the newspapers. She wanted most of all to show off to her friends. We were speaking rarely. Every winter she would go to the Carribbean and France, and spend the summer in London. Always, she had a private jet to hand. She could spend without limit. Sometimes she bought the entire collection of Chanel. One time, she planned a New Year party in New York and spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on it. But she cancelled it two days ahead of time, and all the money was lost.
But none of it seemed to satisfy her. She spoke to the children rarely. She had three nannies working for her of course. And often she fell into depression. [She’d been treated in Moscow for two years for this.] She once proposed that I should marry her, but another time she told me it would be better if I took a lover, because we had no common interests – nothing tied us apart from money.
After I informed Putin that I was suing the Russian Federation in the Hague, for the expropriation of $12bn in my assets, Russia launched a criminal case against me and tried to extradite me from the UK. I started to fear for my life. But then when SO15 launched an investigation into what appeared to be explosive devices found beneath my cars, Alexandra seemed to take it all in her stride. She’d said Putin wanted to kill us all. But at the same time she just continued to live her glamourous life. And, when SO 15 offered to provide guards she said it wasn’t necessary. But I felt huge pressure on my life and of course I decided to leave for my home, to France, where I felt I could live in greater safety, where I could live in a guarded compound, not on the unsecure and open street in Chelsea.
But after I ﬂed, Alexandra refused to move there, even though the children were already going to a French school in London. She said she would only bring the children for holidays, and then she started asking for more and more money. Every time I wanted to speak with the children, she would ask me to send £1000 by western union ﬁrst, and only then would I get to speak to them for ﬁve minutes.
March 2016 was the last time she came to my house with the children in France and she said we’d meet again in 2 weeks. We’d already chosen a private school for the children nearby. We’d bought tickets for them to return. But this turned out to be a deception. She stole the children, and never brought them again. I got information she was working with the Russian government against me, with the State Deposit Insurance Agency [Mezhprombank’s liquidator] and its lawyers pursuing me through the London courts. They were offering her preferences if she gave false testimony against me. She stopped speaking with me and turned off all her phones. Her legal defence in the recent trial over the trusts was completely inadequate, and it was based on her claim that the properties all belonged to her. But I had set up the trusts for the children, and all of the money in it was disappearing into the pockets of her giftless lawyers. For one hearing, £3m was spent on lawyers, not to mention the vast amounts she had claimed for her expenses too. I’d asked her to tell me when the court case would be. But she told me I can’t tell you because you’ll ruin the situation. I am worried there is no money left now for the children.