Soviet oligarchs slide down UK’s rich list

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br gopal (41847250) Bloomberg Gopi Hinduja (pictured) and his brother, Sri, top the Sunday Times list of the wealthiest people in Britain, with 11.9 billion pounds. Photo: Bloomberg

London - Uzbekistan-born Alisher Usmanov has lost his spot as the richest person living in Britain, according to the Sunday Times, as the crisis in Ukraine wiped billions of pounds off the bank balances of oligarchs from the former Soviet Union.

The Indian-born, London-based brothers Sri and Gopi Hinduja, who run the global automotive, banking and investment conglomerate Hinduja Group, have climbed to the top of the list, valued at a combined £11.9 billion (R207bn).

Usmanov, ranked as Russia’s richest man by Forbes, lost £2.7bn over the past year as he fell to second place on the Sunday Times Magazine’s list.

Britain has the most billionaires per head of population, according to the newspaper, which put the combined wealth of the 104 billionaires on its list at £301bn, up more than £50bn from a year earlier.

Philip Beresford, who compiles the annual table, said the Russians and Ukrainians at the top of the list had seen their wealth dented by the intervention in Ukraine. That led to the rouble falling to an all-time low and Russian stocks tumbling.

“The malaise of the Russian economy and the current crisis has had its effect on them all.”

Ukrainian-American Len Blavatnik, who owns record label Warner Music, and Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich together lost nearly £1.8bn in the past year.

Western countries have responded to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region by imposing limited sanctions against Moscow, targeting some Russian political and business leaders and interests seen as involved in the Ukraine crisis.

The majority of billionaires on the Sunday Times list were born abroad, reflecting the draw of London, in particular, to elite international investors.

Soaring property values in London, where many of Britain’s richest people invested as prices bottomed out during the recession, helped boost the overall wealth of the elite group, which surpassed 100 entries for the first time, according to the report’s author.

Beresford said defining “Britishness” was one of the hardest tasks and the list included people with strong business interests in Britain and those who spent “quite a lot of their time” in the country.

In a sign that the top of UK society is benefiting from the economic recovery, the level of wealth required to enter the top 50, £1.7bn, beat the pre-recession 2008 figure for the first time. - Reuters

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