An investigation into the fate of a 34% stake in the tour operator TUI, owned by sanctioned businessman Alexei Mordashov, who is considered one of the richest Russian oligarchs, has begun in Germany. According to foreign media, their owner, who was on the sanctions list, managed to “withdraw” shares from the EU – from Cyprus to the Virgin Islands, after which he transferred these shares to his wife Marina Mordashova. The investigation in Germany began after TUI Group was notified that its shares in Unifirm Limited, owned by Alexei Mordashov, were transferred to Ondero Limited, owned by Marina Mordashova.
“The German Ministry of Commerce has launched an investigation into Ondero Limited under the Foreign Trade and Payments Act. The investigation in question has also been confirmed by the German Ministry of Economy,” the TUI Group said in a statement. At the same time, according to media reports, the current value of Mordashov's 34% stake in TUI is $1.7 billion. “The share transfer transaction will be put on hold pending investigation,” TUI said.
The situation developed as follows – during the week the tour operator was informed that Marina Mordashova controls Ondero Ltd, which on February 28 bought shares in Mordashov's company Unifirm Ltd, the largest shareholder of TUI, from two of its subsidiaries. The German Ministry of Economy “initiated an investigation procedure under the Foreign Trade and Payments Act against Ondero Ltd regarding the effectiveness of the notified transaction.” The department declined to comment further.
The German authorities pointed to their suspicions that Mordashov's decision to transfer shares to his wife was a deliberate maneuver on his part in order to be able to retain control of the company, albeit indirectly. at the same time, the authorities fear the sanctions imposed by the EU, and freezing the state of the “disgraced” businessman in TUI will not lead to anything, since it may not be possible to legally challenge the transfer. A spokesman for the travel agency said in turn that while the Ministry of Economics examines the legality of shareholder ownership in conjunction with the foreign trade law, the voting rights in question will be blocked.
Frank Buckenhofer, deputy head of German police union GdP Customs, an expert on money laundering, said he was very suspicious of the timing of the regrouping of TUI shares. Of course, this is no coincidence. I believe that this deal was made on purpose to be able to get around the sanctions. As soon as the European Union released the sanctions list and exactly at the same time when this sanctions list came into force, this money accidentally flew into someone else's pocket,” the police said.
Earlier this month, TUI said that Mordashov informed it of a change in the ownership structure of Unifirm Ltd, under which it transferred 4.1% of its 34% stake in Tui to Russia's Severgroup, also controlled by Mordashov.
At that time, it also became known that Mordashov's subsidiaries KN-Holding LLC and Rayglow Ltd sold their shares in Unifirm Ltd to Ondero Ltd on February 28, as a result of which Ondero indirectly received a 29.9% stake in TUI. TUI stated that at the time it was not notified who the controlling shareholder of Ondero was.
At the same time, other property was confiscated from the disgraced oligarch: Italy seized a complex of buildings belonging to Mordashov on the island of Sardinia worth about 105 million euros. And on March 4, the police confiscated his 65-meter yacht Lady M, worth about 65 million euros.
In Russia, it will no longer be possible to use the brand of the German tour operator TUI, according to Turkish Turizmgazetesi. According to the newspaper, TUI Group CEO Fritz Yussen stood in the slender columns of condemning Russia and said that “Russia can no longer use the TUI brand.” “TUI AG has terminated the brand agreement signed with TUI Russia,” he assured.
The curiosity of the situation is that the largest shareholder of TUI Group, with a share of 34%, fully acquired TUI Russia and the CIS back in 2021. He, the oligarch Alexei Mordashov, against whom sanctions have been imposed, became a partner in the parent company of the group. At the moment, according to the Turkish edition, Mordashov “transferred his TUI Group shares to the Virgin Islands and left the company's supervisory board.”
Recall that on March 1, the Russian division of the German tour operator TUI “corrected” the name of its brand in Russia – when entering the site, the tourist is redirected to the Fun&Sun domain – fstravel.com instead of the requested tui.ru. Experts assessed this situation as a result of the acceleration that the sanctions imposed by Europe gave to the planned “delimitation” of brands. Read the details here.
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