The former owner of “Uralkaliy”, Dmitry Rybolovlev, has been charged with corruption. Monaco prosecutors believe that the Russian billionaire has managed to bribe a number of senior law enforcement officers and judges of the principality. The scandal, which got the name “Monacogate” in the press, has already cost the post to the Minister of Justice of Monaco. Philip Narmino had to resign when the media found out how he, along with his wife and son rested in Rybolovlev’s residences, what gifts he received. And now the billionaire will also have to answer for trying to buy justice. Who wanted to sue Rybolovlev? Why does he consider himself a victim of a crook? And will they drop all charges against him, like Senator Suleiman Kerimov?
On November 6, the French newspaper Le Monde reported that the Russian billionaire, the president of Monaco FC, Dmitry Rybolovlev, was detained in Monaco. The arrest was sanctioned by a judge of the principality: a Russian businessman, whose fortune American Forbes estimated at $ 6.8 billion in 2018, was suspected of corruption and “active and passive influence trade”. And in the elite apartment of a businessman in the exclusive residential complex La Belle Epoque in Monaco were searched.
Apartments in La Belle Epoque
The former owner of “Uralkaliy” acquired a two-story penthouse on the Mediterranean coast for a record amount of more than 300 million euros. But the purchase was worth it: the apartments in La Belle Epoque are considered among the best in the world, and in Monaco only the prince’s residence can compare with them in terms of luxury.
Dmitry Rybolovlev was born in 1966 in Perm. In 1990 he graduated from the medical faculty of the Perm Medical Institute. In his student years with his father, who taught at the same university, founded the company “Magnetics”, engaged in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases with the help of magnetic therapy. In 1992, he received a license to work with securities and established an investment company “Financial House”. In two years, he acquired a large block of “Uralkaliy” shares at voucher auctions. In 1994 he headed the bank “Credit FD”. In 1996, he was arrested on charges of murder of Yevgeny Panteleimonov, the general director of AO “Neftekhimik”, in 1997 he was fully acquitted of the Perm Regional Court.
By 2000, he became the owner of 63% of the shares of “Uralkaliy”, until 2011 he was the chairman of the board of directors of the company. In 2010–2011, he sold his stake of “Uralkaliy” to Suleiman Kerimov, Philaret Galchev and Alexander Nesis for an amount in excess of $ 5 billion. In 2011 he moved to Monaco, acquired the football club «Monaco» and became its chairman. Divorced, has two daughters — Ekaterina and Anna.
Apartments in La Belle Epoque
The total area of the two-story Rybolovlev’s penthouse is about 1600 square meters. The apartment is divided into two separate sections, each of which has several living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms, and walk-in closets are larger than bedrooms in many mansions. All interiors are designed in classic style using expensive natural materials. The penthouse is equipped with a cinema room with the most modern equipment, there is a billiard room and a SPA salon with a jacuzzi, and the library occupies two floors at once. All this is under round-the-clock security, and armored doors and bullet-proof glass provide an additional guarantee of security. There is also a special room with increased protection in which you can hide in case of an attack.
The penthouse is attached to a truly huge private terrace where you can walk in the shade of the trees. And you can swim in the pool with an impressive view of the marina: from La Belle Epoque to the parking of yachts can be reached on foot in just a couple of minutes. Rybolovlev may have bought a penthouse because of this view, and at the beginning of this year the billionaire began to build a new 110-meter yacht at shipyards in the Netherlands. Photographs of the so far unnamed ship under the working title Project 1007 have already appeared on the net. Together with the decoration of the ship will cost about half a billion dollars. The design of the yacht is developed by Michael Leach, who previously worked on the 96-meter Palladium boat by Mikhail Prokhorov. This ensures that Rybolovlev’s four-deck super yacht will be a worthy decoration of the marina, which can be seen from the terrace of his penthouse.
According to Le Monde, the searches were taken place not only in the Rybolovlev’s penthouse in La Belle Epoque, but also in the office of the Russian billionaire in Monte Carlo. Documents, mobile phones and computers were seized. The publication did not clarify whether searches were carried out in another apartment of the former owner of “Uralkaliy” in Monaco — luxury apartments on Suisse Boulevard. The rest of the property of Rybolovlev and his family members are outside the principality, therefore, protected from the attention of law enforcement agencies of Monaco.
The oligarch has a long list of properties in Switzerland, London, St. Tropez, New York and Miami. And in 2008, Rybolovlev, one of his mansions, Maison de L’Amite in Florida, bought from the future US President Donald Trump. For a “modest” villa of 60 thousand square feet on the beach in Palm Beach, the Russian billionaire paid $ 95 million to an American. The deal with Trump was the most expensive housing sale ever registered in the United States.
For a record amount Rybolovlev received a whole estate. On an area of about 2.5 hectares, there is a main house with 15 bedrooms and bathrooms, several guest houses, a swimming pool, tennis courts, a winter garden, a garage for 50 cars and a private beach. However, the Russian found Maison de L’Amite not smart enough and began to repair right after the purchase. So in the mansion appeared galleries with marble columns, Venetian stucco and lamps, covered with 24-carat gold. However, it seems that the new owner was not satisfied with the result, so he never rested in the renovated estate. Instead, he divided the Maison de L’Amite into parts and sold it, and with considerable profit for him.
Maison de L’Amite
Rybolovlev much more liked the mansion in Hawaii, previously owned by Hollywood actor Will Smith. The Russian billionaire purchased it in 2013 for $ 20 million. The house has an area of 200 square meters. There are only three bedrooms and three bathrooms, next to a swimming pool, tennis and volleyball courts. Modestly, by the standards of Rybolovlev, but the ocean is very near, and the billionaire likes to fish.
The former “king of kalium fertilizers” appreciates a good bite so much that, under the threat of a fine of 30 thousand euros, he forbade Greek fishermen to fish off the coast of the island of Scorpios in the Ionian Sea. On this legendary island in 1968, former US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy married tycoon Aristrotel Onassis. And in 2013, Skorpios bought Rybolovlev, paying Athens Roussel (Onassis), the previous owner of the island, $ 120 million. Billionaire presented the island to his daughter. Ekaterina kept a romantic tradition and married Uruguayan financier Juan Sartori in Scorpios. And the newlyweds settled in a 10-room penthouse in New York at 15 Central Park West. Rybolovlev purchased this apartment of 630 square meters in 2011 for a record for New York the amount of 88 million dollars. However, he did not live in a luxurious penthouse, he gave it to Ekaterina. The billionaire prefers a penthouse in La Belle Epoque in Monaco, only these luxury apartments Rybolovlev calls home.
Dmitry Rybolovlev and his daughter
Of course, the Russian billionaire was unpleasant when the police came to his home. But Rybolovlev could not prevent the searches, as he testified at the police station at that time, where he had to spend the whole night. Only the next day, on November 7, the former owner of “Uralkaliy” was released from custody and allowed to return to the penthouse in La Belle Epoque. Lawyers of the Russian billionaire Herve Temin and Tom Giakardi reported that after questioning a businessman released under the condition of judicial control, he has the right to leave Monaco. Rybolovlev is completely free in his movements, he is only forbidden to meet with persons participating in the proceedings, and is ordered to appear on the subpoena to the judge.
According to the Nice-Matin newspaper, Rybolovlev has been charged with corruption. And according to Monaco-Matin, along with Rybolovlev, a number of former officials of the judicial apparatus of Monaco, up to the most senior, were detained. All of them, like Rybolovlev, spent the night of November 6-7 in custody to continue testifying in the morning. Moreover, the detention took place not only in Monaco, but also in Nice. “We can talk about a new hearing in the case of the Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier”, — concluded the newspaper Monaco-Matin and a number of other publications.
The events that led to unprecedentedly large-scale arrests for the principality began to develop when Rybolovlev set a goal to collect “the best collection of masterpieces of world art”.
The mediator was the famous Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier, the manager of warehouses, where works of art, expensive wine and precious metals are stored. In 2003, Bouvier helped the owner of “Uralkaliy” buy a painting of Van Gogh, and then about forty more masterpieces totaling about $ 2 billion. As a result, by 2014, a Russian businessman managed to assemble the best private collection of paintings in the world.
One of the paintings, which Rybolovlev acquired with the help of Bouvier, was the famous canvas “Savior of the World” by Leonardo da Vinci. In 2013, the Russian gave the art dealer $ 127.5 million for an invaluable masterpiece. And in 2015, the new owner of the picture was surprised to find out that Bouvier gave almost 50 million less for it. Outraged collector began to check the rest of the transaction and found out that he overpaid about a billion dollars to Bouvier. The art dealer sold paintings with a huge mark-up or through nominees, pretending that they belong to someone else. So, Sandy Heller, art consultant for hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen, told a Russian collector that he had sold Modigliani’s Nude on a Blue Cushion to a certain “mysterious buyer” for $ 93.5 million. It turned out to be Rybolovlev, who paid for the canvas 118 million.
For more than 10 years, representatives of a businessman paid an art dealer for about his services about 2% of the purchase amount, and also paid for his expenses. However, Yves Bouvier was not content with legal remuneration, but negotiated significant discounts with sellers, at the same time overestimating the price for a businessman, and put the difference in his pocket. To restore justice, Rybolovlev appealed to the court and accused the art dealer of unjustified overpricing, demanding the arrest of his assets in offshore accounts. A long litigation began, which stretches so far. The courts decided on the arrest of assets several times, but then they recognized that the proceedings should be conducted in Switzerland, of which Bouvier is a citizen.
In order to accelerate events and to tip the scale of justice to his side, Rybolovlev decided to act according to a scheme that has repeatedly proved its effectiveness in Russia.
If you believe the French media, the businessman established friendly relations with people who might have been affected by the outcome of the litigation with the Bouvier. And in 2015, these ties helped arrest a dealer in Monaco when he came to discuss the sale of Mark Rothko’s paintings for $ 140 million with Rybolovlev. Bouvier was charged with fraud, because the masterpiece was worth almost 80 million euros cheaper than the dealer requested.
However, Bouvier was released on bail of 10 million euros soon. The dealer did not admit his guilt, stating that he was selling a work of art to a billionaire for the price he was willing to pay. Instead of pleading guilty, Bouvier accused Rybolovlev of bribing the law enforcement agencies of the principality. French journalists took the side of the art dealer, and then a scandal broke out, which received the name “Monacogate” in the foreign press.
On September 14 last year, the newspaper Le Monde published an investigation, in which it accused the Minister of Justice of Monaco, Philip Narmino, of corruption. The publication found out that the Minister of Justice and his wife received expensive gifts from Rybolovlev and stayed at his Swiss chalet in early 2015 — just when the Rybolovlev-Bouvier case began. Evidence of corruption Narmino journalists received from the messages extracted from the personal phone of the Rybolovlev’s lawyer, Tatyana Bersheda. It was Bersheda who warned Police Commissioner Christoph Azhe and his deputy about the arrival of an art dealer in Monaco, after which Bouvier was arrested. After studying Bersheda’s correspondence, the newspaper Le Monde concluded that the Russian businessman had “unacceptable contacts” not only with Narmino, but also with other high-ranking representatives of the judiciary, police officers and politicians of Monaco.
Former Minister of Justice of Monaco Philip Narmino
Just a few hours after the publication of the Le Monde investigation, Philip Narmino had to resign. September 22, as reported by Agance France-Press, the official was detained and interrogated, but the former minister was released from custody on the same day.
At the same time, a citizen of Bulgaria, Tanya Rappo, an assistant to the Bouvier, filed a statement with the police. In February 2015, Rybolovlev invited Rappo to dinner, where she confirmed that the art dealer artificially inflated prices. Bersheda recorded their conversation on the phone and referred him to the police as evidence of the illegitimacy of Bouvier’s actions. But since the recording was made illegally, Rappo was able to accuse Rybolovlev and Bersheda of “interfering with private life”. And when Bersheda’s phone was at the disposal of the law enforcement agencies of Monaco, the judge wanted to familiarize not only with the recording of the conversation with Rappo, but also with all the contents of the lawyer’s phone.
After examining all the records, the prosecutor’s office found evidence of Rybolovlev’s agreement with the law enforcement agencies of the principality. Evidence was found for the oligarch’s “informal” communication on the Bouvier case with the Monaco criminal police, the Minister of Justice and the intelligence services of the principality. As it turned out, Rybolovlev really gave Narmino and other officials of the principality expensive tickets for football matches, drove them to ski resorts by private helicopter. The prosecutor’s office of Monaco announced the beginning of the investigation of the anti-corruption case against unnamed suspects. And a year later, the recordings on the phone of Bersheda became the basis for the detention of the billionaire, as they prove “the existence of a secret network fighting local courts in favor of Rybolovlev”.
Lawyers for the Russian billionaire Herve Temin and Tom Giakardi do not dispute the fact that the prosecutor’s office of Monaco filed charges of corruption to Rybolovlev. Charges were also brought against lawyer Tatiana Bersheda, wife and son of the former Minister of Justice of Monaco, Philip Narmino. However, according to the defenders of the businessman, the court has neither grounds for commencement of the trial, nor evidence that could lead to a conviction. “We especially emphasize the fact that at this stage mister Rybolovlev is considered innocent, and insist on the need for strict observance of this principle and the rights associated with it”, — the advocates stressed. They are cinfident that they will achieve a complete justification of the Russian billionaire. After all, the facts that became the basis for the accusation of Rybolovlev are already disputed in the Court of Cassation of Monaco, since “they are connected with the use of the mobile phone of his lawyer”. The lawyers also reminded that earlier Rybolovlev had challenged in court all the accusations made against him by Yves Bouvier.
It is known that during the interrogation, the billionaire was asked 600 questions that he refused to answer.
It is logical to assume that the story of the former owner of “Uralkaliy” will end the same way as with the detention of a member of the Federation Council Suleiman Kerimov, who was suspected of money laundering. Together with the senator, almost a year ago, the French police also detained several people, suspecting tax fraud committed by an “organized group”. But by July of this year, all accusations against Kerimov were completely dropped. The “loud” case, inflated by hundreds of publications in the media, burst like a soap bubble.