PRINCE Harry and Meghan Markle’s $14.6m Santa Barbara mansion was owned by a Russian oligarch who allegedly “threatened to chop up ex-wife,” according to court docs.
The royal couple have swapped Los Angeles for nearby Montecito, Santa Barbara, home to A-listers such as Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres.
And after moving out of actor Tyler Perry’s $18m LA mansion, the Sussexes appear to have bought a bargain a short drive up the coast.
According to public records, the pair were sold their lavish new $14.6m home by a limited liability company partly owned by Russian tycoon Sergey Grishin.
Grishin and his ex-wife are in a legal batter of claim and counter-claim.
Grishin had married Anna Fedoseeva in March 2017 after meeting her in Russia and she had introduced him to her friend Jennifer Sulkess.
But Grishin would later claim, in a lawsuit filed in California, that his wife and Sulkess were lovers and they were trying to trick him out of millions of dollars.
His lawsuit said: “Unbeknownst to Grishin, Fedoseeva and Sulkess had begun seeing each other romantically.
“Grishin and Sulkess thereafter entered into a scheme to defraud Grishin out of his money to finance their lifestyles.”
It’s unclear of Fedoseeva and Sulkess have responded to Grishin’s allegation.
Grishin claimed that he was duped into loaning $561,000 to a production company run by the pair – alleging that the money was used to fund their “lifestyles” and to lease a Bentley.
But the pair countersued, claiming Grishin started a “campaign of terror” against Anna.
The court papers also make dramatic allegations that Grishin confessed to taking “credit” for a scheme that stole $58billion from the Russian Central Bank in the 1990s.
He is said to have made the confession in a now-deleted “selfie video” uploaded online.
In court documents, seen by The Sun, it is alleged that he “sent numerous death threats, violent images, and pornographic images to his wife and Sulkess in text and video messages.”
The court papers claim that he texted his wife saying he had a “Glock” gun with an “I5-round clip” for her.
He allegedly added in the text: “Everything happens at the Four Seasons, on the boulevard, in daytime when there’s plenty of light. Special bullets so they bury you in a closed casket.”
Chillingly, the Russian was accused in the court documents of trying to “kill” his wife by pointing a “gun with a silencer at her head” and forcing her “to strip at gun point.”
The court papers claim that he then punched his wife in the face and head-butted her – breaking several of her teeth.
He is then alleged to have text Sulkess stating that his wife is “not pretty” anymore and “missing some teeth.”
Grishin is also claimed to have threatened to hire a hit man to “take care” of 16 people in rambling recordings he sent to his wife’s mother, according to court docs.
Grishin – said to have had restraining orders taken out against him – is also alleged to have made a false police report in Russia that got Fedoseeva arrested and imprisoned for ten days.
The Russian authorities are said to have started an investigation into the incident, according to the lawsuit.
Anna also claims, in court papers, that he hacked into to her computer, and published private selfie photos of her and Sulkess on the internet.
He was approached for comment on Thursday.
A spokesman for Grishin denied the allegations and told the Daily Mail that he was “the unfortunate victim of a fraud” by Fedoseeva “in respect of which he has been obliged to file legal proceedings against her.
“His legal claim sets out that fewer than two months after their marriage, Ms Fedoseeva became romantically involved with another woman and thereafter entered into a scheme to defraud him out of millions of dollars to finance her and her lover’s lifestyles.
“When that fraudulent scheme failed, Ms Fedoseeva made a series of false and highly defamatory allegations about Mr Grishin – including of physical threats and violence – which are utterly fanciful, hotly denied and have no basis in truth whatever, and which Mr Grishin trusts will be proven to be entirely false when the matter comes before the court.”
Sulkess, 30, also told the outlet: “I keep reading articles which say that Harry and Meghan have ‘quietly’ bought this house.
“I would try and keep it quiet too if I bought a house from a Russian oligarch who was…in court for terrorising his wife with a gun. He is a monster.
“Clearly whatever advisers they have cannot have done any kind of due diligence.”
Grishin is no stranger to big real estate deals in Montecito after he owned the sprawling mansion made-famous by the 1983 gangster movie Scarface.
He sold that iconic property, which in the past hosted the likes of Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein, for $12m in 2015.
Harry and Meghan have reportedly taken out a $9.5m mortgage on the nine-bedroom property which was previously listed for $27m.
Their huge 14,563-square-foot ‘palatial’ pad, known as ‘The Chateau’, was bought by Grishin in 2009 for $25m – however he has struggled to find wealthy buyers able to meet the asking price.
It was eventually listed again in January, for around $17m and sold to the royal couple for around $2.5m under that asking price.
According to real estate agents who spoke with the LA Times, the deal was closed in an “off-market” sale in June.
Tax records for the mansion match the limited liability companies previously created by Meghan, it has been reported.
Pictures from a previous listing of the property on five acres of land show it appears to have a stripper pole installed in its gym.
It is not known if the quirky feature has since been removed. The huge pad also has its own kids playground.
A source close to Meghan and Harry says the couple are calling the luxury mansion their “sanctuary”.
“Harry and Meghan have settled into their new home and say they are still figuring things out, they hope when Covid lets up their lives will become easier,” a source said.
“They realised they needed a big home with a lot of space for Archie because they can rarely leave the house due to their fame, they are still quite nervous about going out and about.
“They have been worried about Archie as he’s been inside so much during lockdown and not interacting with other children, but everyone has reassured them that they’re doing a great job.
“Meghan wanted somewhere with a spectacular garden and the house has a giant pool and pond for them to enjoy.
“They say this new house is their ‘sanctuary’.
“She has been speaking about getting an easel to sit outside and paint during quiet moments, she loves the California sunsets.
“Harry seems a lot more relaxed, he’s walking around the house in shorts and a t-shirt, unshaven and is friendly with the staff, they think he’s adorable.
“He is particularly relaxed now they have a full security team and he’s talked about how impressed he is by the team, who are former LAPD and ex-servicemen.
“They are still looking for a housekeeper and hope to find one when the pandemic eases up, but they do have staff who are sent out with a list for groceries.”
Located inside a secure gated community, the mansion has a giant swimming pool, sauna, wine cellar and a five-car garage.
It also has a two bedroom guest house, which would be perfect for Meghan’s mom Doria to stay at.
An old ad for the property describes it as being in the heart of Montecito and recently modernized with up-to-date Lutron lighting and Crestron high-tech iPad controls.
The 7.38 acre site has beautifully clipped hedges bordering the entry gates before opening out onto a wide lane that is paved with Santa Barbara stone.
The lane then leads through a stunning arch of trees up to the main building, which boasts a library, office, spa, gym, separate dry and wet saunas, games room, theatre, arcade, wine cellar, and a garage that can house five cars.
The property is surrounded by large manicured laws, tiered rose gardens, blooming lavender, 100-year-old olive trees and tall Italian cypress trees.
Other facilities include a tennis court and a swimming pool, while the estate also has several outbuildings – including a children’s cottage, a tea house, and a two-bedroom, two bathroom guest house.
Frank Abatemarco, a local realtor for Sotheby’s told The Sun: “This is a semi-rural neighbourhood that has everything.
“It’s a great place for children and families. “I can’t think of a greater place for them. The schools are also exceptional.”
Asked how celebrities are treated in the area, he added: “People leave them alone. There’s no paparazzi here, people don’t make a fuss and allow them to have their privacy here.
“My guess is people will be very protective of them here, I’m a fan and we’d like to welcome them to Montecito.”