Museum May Breach Sanctions If It Returns an 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, was on loan to the London museum.
  • The institution could end up breaching sanctions if it’s returned to Vekselberg, however.

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

iNews reported the story first. 

Viktor Vekselberg acquired the very first Fabergé Egg – an elaborately decorated ornament – in 2004, according to The Art Newspaper. It was commissioned in 1885 by Tsar Alexander III for his wife and was on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London as part of its Fabergé exhibition.

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

Vekselberg has been sanctioned by western countries, including the US, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Russian oligarch also owns a $90 million superyacht, which was the focus of attention when US President Joe Biden announced a plan to sell Russian oligarchs’ houses 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, per the Art Newspaper. Its two halves can be opened to reveal a golden yolk, the publication added.

Insider reached out to the Fabergé Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

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

He added that the gallery could potentially breach the sanctions imposed by the government should it return the Egg to its owner. He said, however: “If you break it down, whether it’s an egg or a yacht or a house, it can be an asset of a sanctioned person. Be it a port, estate agent, or museum, they all have the same obligations.”

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

“For security reasons, we are not able to provide details of arrangements for individual loans. Now the exhibition has closed we are working with DCMS and the lenders to ensure the safe return of the objects, as required under the terms of the loan agreements.”

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