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Norway's Supreme Court reverses acquittal of Andrey Yakunin, son of former Russian Railways CEO, in sanctions evasion case

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The Supreme Court of Norway has cancelled the acquittal of Russian-British citizen Andrey Yakunin, the son of former Russian Railways CEO Vladimir Yakunin, in a case over the illegal launch of a drone, according to a report by The Barents Observer. The case will now be sent for reconsideration to the district court in Tromsø.

With its ruling on Friday, the Supreme Court decided that other Russian citizens are not allowed to fly drones in Norwegian airspace in the future.

Andrey Yakunin, was detained in Norway last October and accused of violating sanctions as he repeatedly operated a drone over the island of Spitsbergen on the Svalbard archipelago.

Under sanctions imposed by Norwegian authorities against Russia, Russian citizens are prohibited from flying aircraft in Norway. The police argued that sanctions banning Russian aircraft from flying in Norwegian airspace also included a ban on Russian citizens flying drones.

In December, a district court in Tromsø acquitted Yakunin, stating that “small drones are not subject to sanctions rules.” The ruling was later confirmed by the Hålogaland Court of Appeal. The police then asked the Supreme Court to consider the case.

Yakunin told The Barents Observer that he took part in the climbing of Mount Kvasspiggen near Magdelenefjorden in the very north of Spitsbergen Island in the Norwegian Arctic, and used a drone together with other members of the group to scout the best route. He stressed that he intends to again seek acquittal: “I remain committed to proving my innocence in a court of law and to getting justice — over and over again if need be.”

Andrey Yakunin is the son of former Russian Railways head Vladimir Yakunin – a member of Ozero, a dacha cooperative associated with Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

He is the co-founder of Venture Investments & Yield Management, a British investment firm specializing in the hospitality industry across Europe and Russia. Andrey Yakunin estimates his investments in Italy, where he is now based, at €150 million, and has claimed he is “far from the oligarchs on the Forbes list.”

The Insider earlier detailed how Vladimir Yakunin became the holder of Russian Railways’ “obshchak” [organized crime jargon referring to a collective fund intended for use in the interests of a criminal group – The Insider] when he became head of the state-owned railway operator in 2005. Money for the “obshchak” was collected through kickbacks for state companies and exported to offshore companies through a Moldova-based “laundromat.” The embezzlement caused a loss of over $20 billion to Russia's state budget..

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