Twist in al­leged $1bn art fraud as Rus­sian ty­coon de­tained in Monaco

The Guardian Australia - - World News -

Po­lice in Monaco have de­tained Rus­sian ty­coon Dmitry Ry­bolovlev for ques­tion­ing as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into cor­rup­tion and in­flu­ence ped­dling, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

Ry­bolovlev, who owns the foot­ball club AS Monaco, was held on Tues­day and po­lice also searched his lux­ury res­i­dence in Monaco, Le Monde news­pa­per said.

A judge in the prin­ci­pal­ity has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Ry­bolovlev sought to in­flu­ence law en­force­ment of­fi­cials in his long-run­ning dis­pute with Swiss art dealer Yves Bou­vier.

The Rus­sian al­leges Bou­vier swin­dled him out of $1bn by over­charg­ing him on 38 pieces of art he pur­chased over a 10-year pe­riod and is su­ing his for­mer art ad­viser in Monaco, Sin­ga­pore and Switzer­land. Bou­vier has de­nied wrong­do­ing.

The Monaco pros­e­cu­tor con­firmed an op­er­a­tion linked to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion but de­clined to say if Ry­bolovlev was be­ing ques­tioned by po­lice.

Asked about the Le Monde re­port, Ry­bolovlev’s lawyers in Rus­sia de­clined to com­ment on whether he was be­ing ques­tioned and said: “We re­quest that the pre­sump­tion of innocence in re­la­tion to Mr Ry­bolovlev is strictly re­spected.”

All those in­volved have de­nied wrong­do­ing.

The Rus­sian busi­ness­man, who earned his multi-bil­lion-dol­lar for­tune through the sale of two Rus­sian fer­tiliser pro­duc­ers, bought Don­ald Trump’s Palm Beach man­sion in 2008 for about $100m.

The ques­tion­ing of an in­di­vid­ual un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion is a stan­dard pro­ce­dure. Be­ing un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Monaco is not equiv­a­lent to be­ing charged. It is the first step in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The feud between Ry­bolovlev and Bou­vier led to the res­ig­na­tion in Septem­ber of the head of Monaco’s ju­di­cial ser­vices af­ter Le Monde daily wrote about con­nec­tions between Ry­bolovlev and Mone­gasque jus­tice of­fi­cials.

Ry­bolovlev spent more than $2bn buy­ing 38 mas­ter­pieces from Bou­vier between 2003 and 2014.

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

Ry­boloblev has also sued Sotheby’s for $380m, al­leg­ing the auc­tion house helped Bou­vier de­fraud him. Sotheby’s has de­scribed the al­le­ga­tion as “des­per­ate” and with­out merit.

Pho­to­graph: Ni­co­las Tu­cat/AFP/Getty Im­ages

Dmitry Ry­bolovlev, who al­leges that Swiss art dealer Yves Bou­vier swin­dled him out of $1bn.

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