Russian tug of war over tycoonТs Faberge eggs, The Times informes
© 2004 www.veksel-berg.org со ссылкой на The Times www.timesonline.co.uk 30 ма€ 2004 г.
By Mark Franchetti, Moscow
When Viktor Vekselberg, RussiaТs third-richest man, spent £54m bringing
home nine gem-encrusted Faberge eggs that once belonged to the tsars,
he thought his fellow countrymen would applaud the gesture.
They accuse the tycoon of using money from the bank to help buy the collection earlier this year from the Malcolm Forbes Foundation in New York. Vekselberg, 47, who has a £3.2 billion fortune, rejects the charges.
The tycoon is one of the co-owners of TNK/BP, a joint venture set up last year that is BritainТs single largest investment in Russia. The angry depositors are led by Armen Rshtuni, a former colleague of VekselbergТs at TNK, who alleges that the disputed funds were transferred from First Municipal to the tycoonТs Aljba Alyans Bank.
Rshtuni, who is personally claiming back £3.3m, says he raised problems at the bank several times with Vekselberg but was repeatedly told they would be Уsorted outФ and that he should Уnot make a fussФ.
УWe believe that part of the money transferred by VekselbergТs bank could have been used to buy the eggs,Ф Rshtuni said. УWe are trying to get our money back and therefore we want the eggs impounded.Ф
A spokesman for Aljba Alyans Bank claimed Rshtuni was himself under investigation by the state security force FSB for allegedly defrauding First Municipal of millions of pounds. Rshtuni has denied the allegation.
Vekselberg bought the eggs and another 180 precious objects in February before they could be auctioned by SothebyТs.
The purchase was seen as part of a growing trend by the super-rich who had made their fortunes during the privatisation of state assets to improve their image by Уgiving something backФ to Russian society. The treasures are still owned by Vekselberg, however, and were not given to the state.
The nine eggs were commissioned in the late 19th century by Tsar Alexander III and his son Nicholas II, RussiaТs last imperial ruler, as gifts for their wives.
The most valuable, the diamond-studded Coronation Egg, worth an estimated £13m, was made in 1897 as an Easter gift for Tsarina Alexandra and contains a precise model of the coronation coach in which she had ridden three years earlier. Another egg, The Hen, was the first to have been made for the royal family in 1885. It is white on the outside with a golden yolk.
Fifty eggs were made by Peter Carl FabergeТs master jewellers. Some were lost after the 1917 revolution when they were taken from the Winter Palace in St Petersburg to the Kremlin in Moscow. In 1930 Stalin ordered most of those left to be sold.
Malcolm Forbes, the founder of Forbes magazine and a staunch anti-communist,
began collecting the eggs and eventually realised his ambition of owning
more of them than the Kremlin. Others are owned by the Queen and by Prince
Rainier of Monaco.