A £2.6million donation to Oxford University from the son of a sanctioned Russian oligarch has been branded ‘unacceptable’ by an anti-corruption charity who called for it to be returned.
The money was given to the prestigious seat of learning by Said Gutseriev, 34, who is the son of Mikhail Gutseriev, an oil tycoon with a close relationship with Belarus‘s dictator.
It came in May 2019 three years before Gutseriev senior’s sanctions and went to the anthropology and archaeology department at the university.
But the donation did follow just months after the son got oil shares understood to be worth millions of pounds from his father.
There is no suggestion Said has done anything wrong and he is actually a British citizen. He has not been sanctioned by the government.
He studied Archaeology and Anthropology himself as a student at St Peter’s College, Oxford.
Susan Hawley, executive director of non-profit Spotlight on Corruption, said: ‘It is plainly unacceptable for a top British university to retain donations from a businessman who has served as a senior business figure in Russia under Putin’s regime.
‘Oxford University must either hand this money back or donate it to a charity supporting the reconstruction of Ukraine.’
Said Gutseriev said the funds were from money made from his own tech start-up firms
Mikhail Gutseriev was added to the UK sanctions list over his links to the Belarus president
The donation was made as an individual, in memory of his late brother.
A reference in an article from the university about the donation referencing the ‘Gutseriev family’ was in recognition of the loss of Chingiz Gutseriev to the whole family.
At the time Professor Anne Trefethen, a pro-vice-chancellor of Oxford, said: ‘We are deeply appreciative to Mr Gutseriev and his family for their generous benefaction.’
His father Mikhail was added to the UK sanctions list over his links to President Lukashenko of Belarus.
The Times reports he transferred 398 shares in Lanbury Trading Limited to his son in November 2018, taking his son from 80 per cent to 100 per cent ownership.
It owned 100 per cent of JSC Daglis, which has a stake in SFI, the Russian conglomerate.
Both men served as board directors of SFI between 2017 and 2020, according to the company’s annual reports, with Said Gutseriev now owning an overall 30 per cent stake.
Said enjoyed a lavish wedding six years ago which included a galaxy of stars from music
Professor Anne Trefethen, a pro-vice-chancellor of Oxford, said: ‘We are deeply appreciative to Mr Gutseriev and his family for their generous benefaction’ at the time of the donation
Said enjoyed a lavish wedding six years ago which included a galaxy of stars from the world of music.
Sting, Jennifer Lopez and Enrique Iglesias sang at the marriage, which also featured a fleet of Rolls-Royces to ferry the guests.
APCO Worldwide, which handles communications for Said Gutseriev, told The Times: ‘The fellowship was solely funded by proceeds from Said’s own successful investments in technology-focused start-ups. Any suggestion that the fellowship was funded by any other source would be factually incorrect.’
Oxford University told MailOnline: ‘The unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia is causing a humanitarian catastrophe to unfold in Europe. The University supports and will comply with all sanctions introduced in the current crisis.
‘All decisions about significant donations are made by the University’s Committee to Review Donations and Research Funding, which includes independent, external representatives, who consider the reputational risks based on the source of the funding and its intended use in the University.
‘The Chingiz Gutseriev Associate Professorship in Archaeology and Anthropology was established at Oxford University in 2019, following an endowment of £2.6 million to the University by Said Gutseriev.
‘The Professorship is named for the donor’s late brother, Chingiz Gutseriev. The post sits between the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, the School of Archaeology, and St Peter’s College, where Said Gutseriev studied.
‘The current post holder conducts research, lectures and teaches at the interface of Archaeology and Anthropology.’