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Finland seizes Russian oligarch's Helsinki arena holdings

Gennady Timchenko is a target of EU and US sanctions, while the arena has stood unused for the past month.

Gennadi Timtšenko, Harry Harkimo ja Roman Rotenberg Jokerien KHL-siirtoa koskeneessa lehdistötilaisuudessa. Myös venäläis-suomalainen Timtšenko on Yhdysvaltain asettamalla pakotelistalla.
In the summer of 2013, Hjallis Harkimo sold the arena to the Rotenbergs and Gennady Timchenko. Image: Aleksi Tuomola / Lehtikuva
Yle News

Finland's National Enforcement Authority has confiscated the holdings of the Russian-Finnish oligarch Gennady Timchenko in the former Hartwall Arena.

Timchenko owns about 22.5 percent of the multifunctional arena in Pasila, Helsinki. He was the first Finnish citizen placed on the EU sanctions list. The value of his stake in the holding company was roughly 10 million euros.

Forbes magazine has reported Timchenko is one Russia's richest oligarchs with an estimated net worth of 15 billion euros.

Russian-Finnish businessman Roman Rotenberg is also a major owner of the former Hartwall Arena.

Rotenberg has been placed on the US sanction list, but as of Wednesday, has not been included on the EU sanctions list. While the US sanctions have no legal bearing over transactions in Finland, banks avoid dealing with individuals and companies subject to US sanctions.

93.9% voting power

Together, Rotenberg and Timchenko own 44 percent of the arena's holding company, Helsinki Halli Oy, but their combined voting power in the company accounts for 93.9 percent. In addition to Timchenko and Rotenberg, the Finnish Hockey Association owns just over 13 percent of Helsinki Halli. The remaining 42 percent is owned by 557 other shareholders.

The National Enforcement Authority refused to accept any payments from Timchenko's Luxembourg-based White Anchor Holding, which has lent money to the arena's holding company.

Timchenko has been a partner in the arena since 2013 and a co-owner of the Helsinki Jokerit from 2013-2019, an ice hockey team that, until recently, was in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League under his ownership.

Up until April 2022, Russian mining and metals conglomerate Norilsk Nickel owned a stake in the team until former NHL player and general manager Jari Kurri bought the remainder.

Businessman and MP Hjallis Harkimo (MN) sold Hartwall Arena to Timchenko and Rotenberg in 2013 for around 35 million euros.

Yle reported that millions of euros in tax subsidies have flowed into the pockets of Rotenberg and Timchenko, mostly from state-funded Covid relief packages.

The arena has been empty since the end of February, with events at the facility cancelled for the rest of the year.

A tough sell

Former NHL player Teemu Selänne said last weekend that he found a group of investors who would be willing to buy the arena.

Due to economic sanctions imposed by the EU, however, such a transaction may prove to be difficult. Under the Enforcement Act, the owner of a seized property can apply to the National Enforcement Authority for permission to sell it. If the permit is granted, the money from the sale of the property would be taken by the National Enforcement Authority. The owner of the confiscated property would not receive the money until the National Enforcement Authority unseized the asset.

Such a procedure has never taken place in Finland and it is unclear whether it would align with EU directives and regulations on sanctions.

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