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Finnish arena could be seized under new sanctions

The Russian-owned Helsinki Halli, Finland's largest arena, has been shuttered since the invasion of Ukraine in early 2022

By James Hanley on 29 Nov 2023

Hartwall Arena, Helsinki

Helsinki Halli

A new package of EU sanctions on Moscow could pave the way for the Finnish authorities to seize the Russian-owned former Hartwall Arena in Helsinki.

The 15,500-cap venue has been owned by Arena Events Oy (AEO) – a company co-founded by oligarchs Gennady Timchenko and Roman Rotenberg – since 2013, but shuttered in early 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

All of Timchenko’s holdings in the European Union (EU) have been frozen, while Rotenberg’s family is the target of US sanctions for their close ties with Vladimir Putin.

The 12th package of EU sanctions will be decided in December. According to a new report by Finnish News Agency STT, via The Insider, individuals who are subject to sanctions could be given the opportunity to sell their frozen assets, although the proceeds of the sale would remain frozen. The assets would be confiscated if they refuse to sell.

STT reports that property can be expropriated in cases of “public need”, with the owner of the property receiving compensation. Although, again, the funds would be frozen in the case of the arena.

“At the moment, the interests of the owners are to promote trade. And there are plenty of buyers”

In September this year, Timchenko’s Finnish case manager Kai Paananen told Helsingin Sanomat that the sale of the venue was being negotiated.

“During the past year, there have certainly been moments when the negotiations for the sale of the arena have not progressed, but now the situation is different,” said Paananen. “Of course, the current owners of the arena ultimately decide whether they will sell their shares or not. There is currently no certainty about this, but as said, at the moment, the interests of the owners are to promote trade. And there are plenty of buyers.”

Beverage giant Hartwall ended its 25-year association with the building – since renamed Helsinki Halli – last year due to its Russian ownership.

Finnish publication Ilta Sanomat notes that the city of Helsinki is losing more than €100 million per year due to the closure, with Tampere’s 15,000-cap Nokia Arena taking over as the country’s leading events venue.

Earlier this year, Finland’s Flow Festival also ended its brand partnership with Heineken Silver due to the lager firm’s operations in Russia.


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