Art Dealer Wins Dismissal of Charges in Fight With Russian Mogul

(Bloomberg) -- Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier won an important victory in his feud with Russian billionaire client Dmitry Rybolovlev, after a Monaco judge threw out charges of fraud and money laundering.

An appeals court judge said that the investigations had been “conducted in a partial and unfair way,” and Bouvier hadn’t been given an opportunity to “rectify these serious anomalies.”

The dispute between the two men dates back to 2015, when Rybolovlev accused Bouvier of overcharging him by about $1 billion for dozens of canvasses by artists including Gustav Klimt and Rene Magritte. Rybolovlev said Bouvier violated fiduciary duties as his broker by deliberately inflating what he said the works cost him to acquire.

The battle has been playing out in courts in Monaco, Paris, New York, London, Geneva and Singapore ever since. Bouvier and his lawyers have argued repeatedly that he was never Rybolovlev’s broker and that the Russian was just a repeat customer willing to pay top prices to secure the artworks.

“This victory proves what we have been saying from the very beginning, namely that the procedure was tainted and completely biased in favor of the Russian oligarch,” Bouvier said in a statement.

Lawyers for Rybolovlev said they will appeal the Monaco decision immediately. Rybolovlev is confident he will be exonerated of the corruption charges in Monaco, his lawyers said.

His Swiss lawyers issued a separate statement, saying that Monaco decision is purely procedural and in no way impacts proceedings in Geneva where a criminal investigation into the sale of 38 paintings by Bouvier remains in progress.

The Monaco developments “will not hide the fundamentals of the case, which are overwhelming,” the lawyers said.

Bouvier requested the original Monaco complaint be thrown out because local prosecutors decided to charge Rybolovlev in 2018 with corruption and influence peddling. Text messages found on the phone of his lawyer revealed Rybolovlev had invited Monaco’s then justice minister Philippe Narmino to Rybolovlev’s chalet in the Swiss Alps. Other messages were found in which the lawyer discussed a trip by Bouvier to Monaco during which he was arrested.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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