ONE of Russia’s most powerful oligarchs and Putin ally has been arrested in a money laundering and sanctions violations probe in France.
French police detained Russian billionaire oligarch Alexei Kuzmichev on Monday, in an investigation into money laundering, tax fraud and violations of international sanctions.
The EU describes Kuzmichev as “one of the most influential persons in Russia,” with close ties to Putin and the Russian regime.
As part of a preliminary probe by France’s anti-corruption office (OCLCIFF), police on Monday carried out multiple searches at several locations in France, including Kuzmichev’s property in Paris, a spokesperson for France’s National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) said.
Kuzmichev was detained for questioning in France in connection with alleged tax evasion and money laundering and for violating international sanctions, the French Financial Prosecutors’ office said today (Tuesday).
Searches took place on Monday at Kuzmichev’s Paris home and in the Mediterranean Var region as part of the investigation, the office said, confirming a report in French daily Le Monde.
Kuzmichev was still being detained on Tuesday but has not yet been charged in the case.
Philippe Blanchetier, a lawyer for Kuzmichev, declined to comment.
Russia will be able to defend Kuzmichev’s rights once Paris provides detailed information about his case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
“As far as I understand, he is a citizen of the Russian Federation so we should receive information about the detention through our diplomatic mission,” Peskov told reporters.
“Once we receive the information, and if the detainee so wishes, we will of course assist in protecting his rights as a Russian citizen.”
French customs agents last year seized the oligarch’s 27-metre yacht “La Petite Ourse”, as part of sanctions by the European Union for his ties to President Vladimir Putin.