Russian Billionaire Faces Swiss Probe Over Monaco Arrest
(Bloomberg) -- Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev faces a Swiss criminal probe into whether he illegally helped to orchestrate the Monaco arrest of art dealer Yves Bouvier, marking the latest chapter in the long-running feud between the two men.
Rybolovlev is being investigated under Article 271 of the Swiss criminal code, according to a spokesman for the Swiss Attorney General’s Office. That covers the use of “false pretenses or threats” to take a person “abroad in order to hand him over to a foreign authority.” The probe was opened in February, he said, declining to give further details.
Bouvier, a Swiss national, was on his way to a meeting in February 2015 at Rybolovlev’s Monaco penthouse for what he thought was a discussion about the Russian buying more artwork, when Monaco police swooped on the premises to arrest him. The arrest was prompted by a complaint Rybolovlev had filed locally, accusing Bouvier of overcharging him by about $1 billion for dozens of canvasses by Leonardo da Vinci, Rene Magritte and others.
That complaint was eventually thrown out in 2019 by a Monaco judge who concluded the probe preceding Bouvier’s arrest was tainted. Newly appointed prosecutors in 2018 had already charged Rybolovlev with corruption after text messages emerged revealing friendly exchanges between his lawyer and Monaco justice officials at the time. The conversations included invitations to Rybolovlev’s chalet in the Swiss Alps and a detailed back-and-forth on Bouvier’s movements in the hours before his arrest.
“We strongly deny any wrongdoing on the part of our client and intend to fully cooperate with the Swiss Federal Prosecutor,” Rybolovlev’s lawyers, Marc Henzelin and Sandrine Giroud, said in a statement. “We are confident about the outcome of this procedure.”
The federal investigation stems from a report Bouvier filed in 2017, the Swiss said in a statement. “We are not a party to this case,” however, he said.
The two men have been trading blows through lawyers in New York, Singapore, Geneva and Monaco ever since the Russian’s original complaint. Rybolovlev, who made billions in the Russian fertilizer business, said Bouvier violated fiduciary duties as his broker by massively inflating and then misrepresenting the price he paid to acquire the works.
Bouvier and his lawyers argued that he was never Rybolovlev’s broker and that the Russian was just a repeat customer willing to pay top prices.
Rybolovlev had the upper hand in the first years of the feud, temporarily securing a worldwide freezing order on Bouvier’s assets. But in the wake of the Monaco complaint being thrown out, a Geneva prosecutor said in December he would soon close the probe into Rybolovlev’s accusations.
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