The squatters of the villa in Amsterdam of a Russian oligarch are allowed to stay by the Dutch court.

The judge in preliminary proceedings of the Amsterdam Court has yesterday dismissed the claim of the founder of the Russian search engine Yandex, Araki Volozj, for the eviction of squatters from his home in Amsterdam. Procedural law lawyer Onno Hennis explains the judgment.

Background

Volozj, according to European civil servants, a supporter of Putin, in 2018 became the (indirect) owner of premises at the Vondelpark in Amsterdam for an amount of EURO 3.4 million. Virtually immediately after the acquisition Volozj started extensive refurbishment work. Part of the planned refurbishment was the creation of a new apartment and renumbering related to this.

Sanctions

At the beginning of June 2022, due to the invasion by Russia of the Ukraine, Volozj was put on the European sanctions list. The company in the British Virgin Islands was not put on the sanctions list. A result of the sanctions legislation is, inter alia, that the financial funds and economic resources of Volozj are frozen in the European Union. Furthermore, Volozj cannot enter the European Union.

Squatters

At a certain time a small group of people squatted the entire home. Locks were changed and Ukrainian flags were hung on the premises. Banners with pro-Ukrainian texts were also raised and protests were made from the squatted premises against the housing shortage.

Position of Volozj

Volozj argues that the squatters must be evicted from the home, in order for the refurbishment to be completed. He states thereby that the ownership right entails that he must be able to freely dispose of his home. Squatting has been made a criminal offence and therefore is unlawful vis-à-vis him.

Position of the squatters

Nevertheless, the squatters are of the opinion that their right to housing must prevail over the ownership right of Volozj. Furthermore, they argue that as long as the sanctions apply, no refurbishment work may be carried out and that it is unlikely that Volozj and his family will personally live in the house.

Opinion of the judge

The judge found in favour of the squatters. She held that under the sanctions legislation it is not permitted that Volozj increases the value of his possessions. However, due to the refurbishment that would happen. Furthermore, the judge in preliminary relief proceedings deemed it unlikely that Volozj will personally use the home. It must be considered that the home has not yet been completed and, in addition, there is an entry ban. Although Volozj apparently has a ‘gold’ Maltese passport (which he can still travel with), the expectation is that the European Union will end this soon.

Preliminary opinion

The squatters are for the time being staying safely with this. Nevertheless, this is a preliminary opinion. Volozj can appeal against this. Furthermore, he could also start proceedings on the merits. Volozj could thereby apply to the Dutch government for an exemption from the sanctions legislation. Whether he will do that must be awaited.

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