Russian countess faces eviction as her billionaire banker ex who claims to be on a Putin death list is forced to sell £9million Chelsea mansion after judge rules it belongs to Moscow
- Sergei Pugachev loses latest round of legal battle with Russian government
- High Court ruled his £9million Chelsea home is property of Moscow
- Ex-partner Alexandra Tolstoy and their three children must leave by January
- Tycoon was once in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and part of Russian elite
- But they fell out after bank collapse and he claims president ‘wants him dead’
A Russian tycoon once known as ‘Vladimir Putin’s banker’ has been forced to hand over his £9million home after a judge ruled it belonged to the Russian state, meaning his former lover and their children face being made homeless.
Sergei Pugachev, who now claims Moscow want him dead, fought to keep his Chelsea home in the High Court battle which has been going on for four years.
The billionaire was a close ally of the Russian President and helped run his first election campaign, but their relationship has since crumbled.
He moved to London in 2011 and the property was home to his former partner Alexandra Tolstoy, 44, and their three children, who have been told to leave by January.
She previously lived in poverty in a tiny Soviet-era apartment in Moscow with her ex-husband, an Uzbek horseman.
But after meeting Mr Pugachev she experienced the best money could buy including huge properties in Cote d’Azur and the West Indies.
The Russian state has been pursuing him through the High Court claiming he illegally siphoned hundreds of millions of pounds from a government bailout of the Mezhprombank he co-founded.
Mr Pugachev, 55, denies the allegations and claims Moscow is trying to steal £11billion of his assets, including two shipyards and the world’s largest mine.
Mr Pugachev has previously been declared to be in contempt of court, with a two-year prison sentence left hanging over his head should he return to this country.
According to the Guardian, the court made an order compelling him to sell the home on Tuesday.
Mr Pugachev had been due to give evidence via video link but complained of ‘injustice’ after the connection failed.
The paper said he made a statement to the judge apologising for being in contempt of court, claiming he was on an ‘A-list’ of targets for Putin as one of his ‘worst personal enemies’.
Mr Pugachev added he had an ‘unofficial death sentence’ on his head.
He had been living in France for the past three years after being ordered to give up his passports in 2014 and having his assets frozen. He also claims ‘credible attempts’ had been made on his life in the UK.
The tycoon is in another legal battle with Russia in The Hague where he is suing the Federation for £11billion.
He claims he is being targeted because of his knowledge of state secrets.
The Guardian reported his witness statement claimed Putin wanted to buy Chelsea Football club to ‘increase his influence and raise Russia’s profile with ordinary British people’.
But the court ruled his statement ‘did not have anything useful to say’ in his defence.
His former wife Galina has also made a claim in the court over the property stating it is a ‘matrimonial asset’ but a decision has yet to be made.
Lats year the High Court ruled that the £90 million offshore trusts set up by Pugachev to provide for his children with Ms Tolstoy could be seized by the Russian state.
The 43-year-old former television presenter, a distant cousin of Russia author Leo, said it ‘destroyed’ her life, after the ruling also deprived her of a house in St Barts.
Her years with Pugachev have been described as a ‘kaleidoscope of private jets, yachts and the best hotels’.
As well as a large country house near Moscow, Alexandra had a suite in Claridge’s permanently at her disposal.
Speaking about last year’s ruling, she said: ‘I cried for two days when I heard. I lost our house in St Barts. My children are losing their home.
‘I was such a romantic. I’ve taken extraordinary risks in my life. I’ve always been reckless.
‘Until now, it’s paid off. But I was young then and had more energy. And I didn’t have the children.’
She has since described her ex-partner as a ‘tyrannical and paranoid bully’ who, she claims, effectively kept her prisoner in his spectacular homes – which he denies.
Countess Alexandra Tolstoy was just 25 when she first came to the public’s attention after joining a 5,000-mile horseback trek along the entire route of the Silk Road in 1999, just as the former USSR was opening up.
One of her local guides was the Uzbek showjumper Shamil Galimzyanov.
They fell in love in a tent on the Asian steppes and – to the amazement of her friends and family – were married at London’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral in 2003.
Despite her exotic name and family history, Alexandra is a Home Counties English rose, educated at Downe House, a school where the Duchess of Cambridge studied briefly.
But after their marriage fell apart, she started a TV career, presenting Alexandra Tolstoy’s Horse People for BBC2.
She then met Mr Pugachev in 2008 and he whisked her away to a life of yachts, chateaux in the South of France and St Barts.