South Florida

After business and girlfriend rifts, Russian oligarchs battle over $1.5M Miami Beach pad

Aqua at Allison Island, Miami Beach
Aqua at Allison Island, Miami Beach Aqua

What do you get when you pit a pair of Russian oligarchs — one Vladimir Putin’s friend, the second jailed in Moscow —against each other? Then, add a girlfriend who’s accused of betraying one billionaire for the other?

You get this: A lawsuit over the ownership of a $1.5 million townhouse at Aqua in Miami Beach wrapped in international intrigue.

The wealthy Russian businessmen fighting over the five-bedroom, five-bathroom home are Sergei Polonsky and Roman Trotsenko.

Polonsky, a real estate developer awaiting trial in Russia on embezzlement charges, had invested in the Aqua project on Allison Island a decade ago and sold off all but one of the units. Trotsenko is an airport and shipping magnate who had a falling out with Polonsky, a former business partner. Trotsenko counts Russian President Putin among his personal acquaintances.

In the suit, Trotsenko’s lawyers with Berger Singerman have asked a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge to enforce an arbitration ruling in London that granted ownership of Polonsky’s remaining Aqua town home to his former girlfriend, Yulia Drynkina, with whom he has three children. She lives in Moscow but is listed as the managing member of a Hollywood business, Marusya Pro.

The lawyers claim Polonsky “breached” two deeds to transfer title of the one remaining Aqua town home and give her $375,000 from the proceeds of another unit he had sold for $1.85 million in 2015.

A hearing on the proposed ownership transfer is scheduled for next Tuesday before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey.

Polonsky’s lawyer — who says in court papers that Trotsenko is now seeing Polonsky’s girlfriend and financially supports her — wants the judge to throw out the suit. He asserts that a Florida property dispute can only be legally resolved in the state, not in a foreign venue such as London.

“I am very confident that the judge will not let a Russian oligarch decide where Miami property disputes are to be resolved and equally sure that President Trump would agree,” said New York attorney Robert Hantman, who represents Polonsky.

In response to the suit, Hantman says Trotsenko’s motive is to wrest control of the remaining Aqua townhouse in Polonsky’s portfolio and turn it over to his former girlfriend — resulting from the fallout of soured business dealings between the two Russians.

Hantman says the 5,200-square-foot town home at 6120 Aqua Ave., which was recently on the market for $2 million, belongs to Polonsky. Five years ago, he had already given the former girlfriend an Aqua town home “in recognition of their time together as an unmarried couple and their three children together,” along with $800,000 in cash and a home in Moscow worth $2.5 million, according to court papers.

Hantman says Trotsenko — along with the ex-girlfriend — is trying to squeeze Polonsky financially to undermine his defense against the embezzlement charges in Moscow, where he is accused of fleecing buyers of units in a high-rise luxury condo project that he failed to complete. Polonsky was arrested in 2015 in Cambodia, where he had been living in a waterfront estate.

“In reality, the plaintiffs [Trotsenko and Drynkina] care little about [Aqua] Villa 6120,” Hantman wrote in a motion to dismiss the suit. “Their ulterior and real purpose is to subvert the [Florida] judicial system in order to prevent Mr. Polonsky from funding his criminal defense (as he is currently unjustly imprisoned in Russia) and ongoing litigation against Mr. Trotsenko” for millions of dollars.