Museum can breach sanctions if it returns oligarch’s Fabergé egg

  • The Victoria and Albert Museum is in possession of a Fabergé egg belonging to a sanctioned oligarch.
  • The ornament, owned by Viktor Vekselberg, is on loan to the London Museum.
  • However, the institution could end up violating the sanctions if it is returned to Vekselberg.

A British museum, which is in possession of a Fabergé egg belonging to a sanctioned Russian oligarch, could breach the sanctions if it returns it to him.

iNews reported the story first.

Viktor Vekselberg acquired the very first Fabergé egg – an ornately decorated ornament – in 2004, according to The arts journal. It was commissioned in 1885 by Tsar Alexander III for his wife and was loaned to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London as part of his Faberge exhibition.

The egg is normally kept at the Fabergé Museum, which was opened by Vekselberg in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2013. However, he transferred ownership of the egg to a Panamanian company.

Vekselberg was sanctioned by Western countries, including the United States, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Russian oligarch also owns a $90 million superyacht, which caught the eye when US President Joe Biden announced a plan to sell Russian oligarchs’ homes and yachts to help support Ukraine.

The Fabergé egg in question is made of solid gold and enamel, and stands just over two inches tall, according to the Art Newspaper. Its two halves can be split open to reveal a golden yolk, the post added.

Insider contacted the Fabergé Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

Tom Keatinge, director of financial crime and security studies at the Royal United Services Institute, told iNews: “When people normally think of sanctions, they think of freezing bank accounts and other financial things. Everyone world is very focused on yachts, but many people in other industries probably don’t realize that these sanctions apply to them as much as Barclays.”

He added that the gallery could potentially violate government sanctions if it returned the egg to its owner. He said, however, “If you break it, whether it’s an egg or a yacht or a house, it can be an asset of a sanctioned person. Whether it’s a port, a real estate agent or a museum, they all have the same obligations.

A spokesperson for the London gallery told iNews: “The object is on loan from the Faberge Museum/Link of Times Foundation and the loan agreement has been made directly between two cultural organizations – the V&A and the Link of Times. Foundation.”

They added: “For security reasons, we are unable to provide details of the terms of individual loans. Now that the exhibition is closed, we are working with the DCMS (the Ministry of Digital, Culture , media and sports) and lenders to secure the return of items, as required by the terms of the loan agreements.”

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