Billionaire owner of AS Monaco detained in graft probe

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The Week

Dmitry Rybolovlev quizzed over alleged interference in police inquiry into art dealer he claims defrauded him of $1bn

The billionaire owner of AS Monaco football club has been detained for questioning as part of an ongoing investigation into suspected corruption and influence peddling, according to reports.

Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev was taken into custody by police on Tuesday night under the order of a Monaco investigative judge. Officers also searched the tycoon’s luxury penthouse apartment in the principality, in what The National  calls “the latest twist” in his legal battle with a Swiss art dealer.

Rybolovlev claims that art merchant Yves Bouvier defrauded him of more than $1bn (£760m) over the course of a decade by “repeatedly and blatantly misrepresented the acquisition prices” of 38 pieces of art purchased for a total of more than $2.1bn (£1.6bn) between 2003 and 2014.

The Russian has also sued Sotheby’s for $380m, alleging the auction house helped Bouvier defraud him. Sotheby’s has dismissed the claim as “desperate” and without merit, The Guardian reports.

Rybolovlev himself has now come under investigation over allegations that he sought to influence law enforcement officials in the long-running dispute. In September, the head of Monaco’s judicial service was forced to resign after French newspaper Le Monde revealed that collaboration had occurred between Monaco justice officials and Rybolovlev, who earned his fortune through the sale of two Russian fertiliser producers.

Monaco prosecutors opened a corruption probe against Rybolovlev in 2017 based on material found on a mobile phone belonging to his lawyer, Tetiana Bersheda, according to The National.

Rybolovlev’s legal team claims that the seizure and analysis of the phone by police was a violation of the lawyer-client confidentiality and are challenging the move in court. He denies all wrongdoing.

“We regret the violation of the secrecy of the investigation, and we ask that Dmitry Rybolovlev’s presumption of innocence is rigorously respected,” his attorneys said in statement.

In 2017, Rybolovlev sold Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of ChristSalvator Mundi, for $450m at a Christie’s auction, making it the most expensive painting ever sold.

 

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