Last week, Russian billionaire Arkady Rotenberg’s ex-wife Natalia reported that “radical terrorists from Chechnya” seized her villa in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (a charming little corner of the French Riviera). Officials in the area confirmed to a local newspaper that her police report is real. Natalia Rotenberg announced the incident in an Instagram post on July 15, saying, “On July 10, radical terrorists from Chechnya captured my villa in France. They kicked out my guards, seized the home, smashed and replaced the locks, and established a base there.” She also shared several videos recorded on the villa’s premises. Meduza breaks down how the Rotenbergs’ divorce got ugly.
The culprits behind this brazen intrusion, says Natalia Rotenberg, were “major Russian oligarchs displeased with my actions.” She also claims to know the names of those who ordered the operation and how much they paid to execute it. And Natalia accuses the local police of refusing to come to her defense.
According to a report that aired on French television, some 30 armed men infiltrated the villa on the night of July 11 and forced out its inhabitants. (Natalia Rotenberg apparently wasn’t home at the time, but she was denied entry when she later returned.) A source told France 3 that Natalia was separated from her personal effects and two dogs. According to France 3, the armed men who seized the compound were security personnel from “SCI Villa Shoshana” — a firm owned by Arkady Rotenberg. The raid reportedly went ahead on orders from the billionaire himself.
SCI Villa Shoshana’s representatives deny any forced entry into the compound, saying that the premises are currently vacant. The firm has even accused Natalia Rotenberg of libel in her allegations on Instagram, and one attorney told the newspaper Nice Matin that the villa is company property. Rotenberg’s ex-wife, the lawyer explained, “lives in Armenia and decided to rent the villa, which does not belong to her.”
Happily ever after
Arkady and Natalia Rotenberg married in 2005 and divorced in 2013, after which she sued him in Britain for financial compensation. The former couple has two children together: a nine-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter.
Russian and British laws entitled Natalia to 50 percent of the couple’s joint property, but sources told The Bell that she claimed just some of their real estate and other property holdings for personal use. “He didn’t lay claim to anything, he gave me everything that we amassed over our marriage. […] I hold no ill will towards my [ex-] spouse and always put him on a pedestal. God bless him!” she told The Bell in August 2019.
According to France 3, the couple’s divorce proceedings in London’s High Court of Justice stipulated that Natalia receive a 40-percent stake in the Shoshana villa near Nice. The couple has shared custody of their daughter, who was awarded the remaining 60 percent of the villa. (Their son was awarded separate assets in Germany.) SCI Villa Shoshana has yet to fulfill the court’s orders, however.
A source familiar with the Rotenbergs told Forbes Russia that Natalia encountered problems accessing the villa once before in 2019, but she apparently took the matter to court and won. Following this latest incident with the “radical terrorists from Chechnya,” Natalia is reportedly “shocked and deeply distressed by her ex-husband’s actions,” having believed that they were still on good terms.
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Translation by Nikita Buchko