A local magistrate in Monaco is looking into concerns that Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev bribed Monaco law enforcement officials with generous perks and lavish passes in order to gain an advantage in his long-running feud with Swiss tycoon Yces Bouvier.
According to a report by the New York Times, the quarrel between the two business moguls began several years ago when Bouvier helped Rybolovlev to purchase 38 pieces of pricey world-renowned art pieces for a staggering $2 billion. In court papers, Rybolovlev explained that he was always under the impression that Bouvier was acting as his agent and adviser on the transactions, earning fees for his service. He was surprised to eventually find out that Bouvier had instead, bought many of the items in advance, and then sold them to him for a $1 billion profit.
Bouvier was arrested in Monaco 2015 on fraud charges based on Mr. Bouvier’s complaints. A magistrate in Monaco is now investigating whether that decision was influenced by Rybolovlev’s generosity, a premise that the Russian tycoon’s representatives deny.
Bouvier has argued that he was entitled to charge Rybolovlev any amount he deemed fit – just like any art dealer. His case is still in court, and Mr. Bouvier, who was released shortly after he was arrested, still lives in Switzerland.
The magistrate’s review of Mr. Rybolovlev’s conduct in the matter began with the disclosure that Rybolovlev’s Swiss lawyer, Ms. Tetiana Bersheda, had exchanged a series of text messages with some of Monaco’s top police and justice officials. Mr. Bouvier’s side says that the messages prove that Ms. Bersheda informed the Monaco police about Mr. Bouvier’s arrival in Monaco for a business meeting, at which he was arrested.
Philippe Narmino, Monaco’s former justice minister, resigned last year when his texts to Ms. Bersheda became known, including an appreciation text from his wife for a 2015 helicopter trip to Mr. Rybolovlev’s Swiss chalet for skiing and a luxurious dinner hosted by a diamond merchant.
Prince Albert, who is keeping tabs with the case, has vowed that no misconduct would be tolerated, and has said that the reports and leaks about the investigation threaten to damage Monaco’s institutions.
Rybolovlev, who is worth $6.8 billion according to Forbes Magazine, made his fortune from Uralkali, Russia’s largest producer of potassium fertilizers.