Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Italy Seizes a $114 Million Compound Belonging to Ousted F1 Driver Nikita Mazepin’s Family

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In March, with the start of the Formula One season approaching and the Russian invasion of Ukraine just beginning, the U.S.-owned team Haas had a decision to make about one of its two drivers. Nikita Mazepin is the son of the Russian oligarch Dmitry Mazepin, who was effectively bankrolling the team through his fertilizer company Uralkali. The elder Mazepin has been described by the European Union, in its announcement of sanctions against him, as “a member of the closest circle of Vladimir Putin.”

Formula One ultimately canceled its scheduled Grand Prix in Russia, and Haas ended its relationship with both of the Mazepins. When the season began, the team’s car no longer sported neither the colors of the Russian flag nor the Uralkali name. Nikita Mazepin didn’t take the news too well. “I am a young man and I was not ready for it,” he told Sky Sports last month, adding, “I lost my dream, which I have been working towards for 18 years.” More recently, he described the sanctions against him as an element of “cancel culture against my country” in an interview with the BBC, echoing Putin’s own line on the matter.

The complaints from the billionaire’s son didn’t garner much sympathy, and sanctions against Russian oligarchs have continued. On Monday, Italy seized his and his father’s eye-popping $114 million compound in Sardinia.

“A real estate asset worth approximately 105 million euro has been frozen,” Italian financial police told CNN in a statement, “because the property is attributable to the Russian billionaire Dmitry Arkadievich Mazepin and his son Nikita Dmitrievich Mazepin, until March 5 a Formula 1 driver of the Haas F1 Team.” Nikita Mazepin’s manager told the outlet that neither he nor his father wished to comment. As Reuters noted, in recent weeks, Italy has sequestered more than 900 million euros worth of villas and yachts owned by E.U.-sanctioned Russians.

Haas’s relationship with the Mazepins made for one of the more absorbing storylines in the most recent season of Drive to Survive, the Netflix reality series about Formula One that, particularly among American audiences, has propelled the sport to new heights of recognition over the past few  years. At a particularly combustible moment for global sports—the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich recently announced his intention to sell Chelsea F.C. amid scrutiny of his own links to Putin—the Mazepin fallout and ensuing sanctions have underscored how closely the sport, arguably the fastest-growing in the world, is tied to matters of geopolitical concern.

“We had really good relations with Nikita and Uralkali,” Haas team owner Gene Haas told ESPN in March. “They were a great sponsor. They provided much-needed capital.”

“We really tried to make this thing work,” he went on. “But when you saw the media pictures of people just being bombed and shot at, this wasn’t going to work.”

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