Embroiled in a Global Feud With His Former Art Dealer, Russian Billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev Is Questioned in Monaco

Monaco police brought in the Russian billionaire art collector Dmitry Rybolovlev for questioning on Tuesday, November 6, in connection with an investigation into corruption and influence-peddling. It is the latest twist in a saga that has revealed the high-stakes machinations of the art world.   

The Russian businessman, who has not been charged with a crime, has been under investigation by Monegasque officials for over a year, with authorities trying to find out whether he tried to influence law enforcement in his long-running feud with his former art dealer, Yves Bouvier.

Rybolovlev was taken into custody in the principality ahead of his soccer team AS Monaco’s match against Bruges. Police also searched his home, a luxurious mansion called La Belle Époque, according to the French newspaper Le Monde.

Rybolovlev is suing Bouvier in Monaco, Singapore, and Switzerland, alleging that the Swiss former “Freeport King” cheated him out of $1 billion by over-charging him for 38 artworks bought over 10 years. The Russian spent nearly $2 billion between 2003 and 2014 on works including the Salvator Mundi, the $450 million work attributed to Leonardo da Vinci due to go on show at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. 

The Swiss dealer denies wrongdoing, and alleges the Russian used his political influence to sway law enforcement officials to his favor. Bouvier’s Paris attorney Ron Soffer told artnet News “Mr Bouvier has no comment on this matter.” Soffer also declined to comment on the developing story.

In a statement, Rybolovlev’s lawyers Hervé Temime and Thomas Giaccardi expressed “regret” that the confidentiality of the investigation was breached, and requested that “the presumption of innocence in relation to Mr Rybolovlev is strictly respected.”

In September, Monaco’s justice minister Philippe Narmino resigned after revelations in Le Monde linked him and other officials to the Russian billionaire in the weeks preceding and following the 2015 arrest of Bouvier by Monaco police.

Recently, investigators in the US have also been scrutinizing Rybolovlev in relation to the Trump-Russia probe. The Russian businessman purchased a Palm Beach mansion from Donald Trump for $95 million in 2008, a $50 million markup from the sum Trump paid for the property four years previously.

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