A Russian billionaire suing Australia’s foreign minister claims sanctions imposed over the invasion of the Ukraine have caused him severe reputational damage.

Steel mogul Alexander Abramov launched legal action against Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong after the former government’s April sanctioning of 67 Russian elites and oligarchs over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The sanctions caused severe reputational harm and the legal consequences have led to continuing financial losses, his lawyer Ron Merkel QC told the Federal Court on Friday.

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He wants the sanctions to be removed, arguing they’re unique to Australia as no other country has placed similar bans on Mr Abramov, who co-founded Russia’s largest steel producer, Evraz.

“Our real point here is the approach the minister has taken is misconceived,” he said.

Australia’s sanctions have also impacted Mr Abramov’s dealings in New Zealand, Mr Merkel said.

He said the case was unusual as public announcements by former foreign minister Marise Payne, explaining her decision, would form part of the suit.

On April 7, Ms Payne announced the government had decided to impose “targeted financial sanctions and travel bans” on 67 individuals “for their role in Russia’s unprovoked, unjust and illegal invasion of Ukraine”.

Those sanctioned included Russian military, business and government officials.

Ms Wong is represented by barrister Brendan Lim.

The federal government is considering an application to prevent public release of some information in the court documents, he said.

The matter will return before Justice Susan Kenny on August 26. 

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Peter Fray
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