France arrests Russian tycoon in tax, sanctions probe
October 31, 2023 09:23 PM
French police have arrested Russian billionaire Alexei Kuzmichev, one of the co-founders of the Alfa Group and who is targeted by EU sanctions, on suspicion of tax fraud and violating sanctions, sources close to the case said.
Kuzmichev was apprehended in the Riviera resort of Saint-Tropez, a source, who asked not to be named, told AFP late Monday.
Police carried out raids on several locations linked to the tycoon including his Paris home and his Saint-Tropez villa, they said.
The European Union placed Kuzmichev on a list of Russian nationals targeted by sanctions in March 2022, following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
According to the EU, Alfa Bank -- in which Kuzmichev holds a large stake -- is one of Russia's biggest tax payers and the businessman himself counts among "the most influential people in Russia" with close links to President Vladimir Putin.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian authorities had been informed of the "detention of a citizen of the Russian Federation" by France.
"After receiving the information, and if the detainee wishes, we will of course help protect his rights as a Russian citizen," he added, emphasising that he "does not know well" Kuzmichev's specific situation.
Kuzmichev should now be questioned and may then be sent to an investigating magistrate to decide whether to press charges.
- Yachts worth millions -
Two yachts worth more than five million euros ($5.3 million) owned by Kuzmichev, who claims to have family ties in France, were seized by the authorities in March 2022 as a result of the EU sanctions, a source told AFP at the time.
Prosecutors in France have opened over a dozen probes since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia into the acquisition of property in France by Russians who in recent years have flocked to Paris, the Cote d'Azur and the Alps.
Kuzmichev has launched an appeal to get the EU sanctions against him lifted, a source close to the case said.
A decision is due on November 15.
Forbes magazine lists Kuzmichev, 61, who co-founded Alfa with his college friends and now fellow oligarchs Mikhail Fridman and German Khan, as the 61st richest person in the world with a total fortune of $6.4 billion.
British authorities in 2022 raided the home in London of Fridman but 10 months later dropped the investigation.
The Spanish National Court on Tuesday said it had shelved a corruption inquiry against Fridman for lack of evidence in his low-cost purchase of a technology company.