The rapid fall of the man once known as Putin's banker

Good grief! It’s Tsar Nicholas II reborn

Not quite. The bearded man pictured above is also a rich Russian who once had near-kinglike powers but has now fallen on hard times. He’s Sergei Pugachev, once known as Putin’s banker, who has now fled to London amid a criminal investigation into claims he purloined the money gifted to his bank when it was bailed out by the taxpayer.

He denies the allegations and has been fighting them from one of his two large London houses where he lives with English society doyenne Alexandra Tolstoy (yes, same Tolstoy family) and their children.

So, what’s going on?

Earlier this year, the High Court in London granted a freezing order over £1.2bn of his assets after a request from the Russian liquidator of his now-bust bank.

The liquidators fear he’ll try and hide them. Mr Pugachev appealed the judgement but yesterday lost again in the High Court, where the judge pointed to the opaque manner in which his business interests were established.

To quote Mr Justice Mann: “The sort of elaborate structures which Mr Pugachev seems to have set up would, in my view, be evidence of a desire to shield assets from view.”

Not a great Christmas present, then?

No, but the Pugachev/Tolstoy family does have an allowance in the asset freeze which means they can spend £10,000 a month.

Enough for a turkey and a few Christmas crackers. But still, it’s not easy on that kind of budget. As Ms Tolstoy has complained, £10,000 a month hardly covers the upkeep of their mansion on the Cote D’ Azur.

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