Billionaire Russian lawmaker under investigation in France


Billionaire Russian lawmaker under investigation in France

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Suleiman Kerimov is one of Russia's richest men and a serving senator

A billionaire Russian lawmaker is under formal investigation in France on suspicion of tax evasion.

Suleiman Kerimov, one of Russia's richest men, was arrested late on Monday night in Nice.

Russia summoned a French diplomat in Moscow to protest about his detention but he has since been released under strict conditions.

"We will apply all efforts, maximum of efforts, to defend his legal interests," a Kremlin spokesman said.

The spokesman argued that Mr Kerimov had diplomatic immunity, which puts officials from overseas above the law of the country in which they are working.

"It is especially important here that Suleiman Kerimov has a diplomatic passport which he used to enter France," the spokesman said.

Russian state news channel Rossiya 24 reported that Mr Kerimov denied any wrongdoing.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The entrance to Mr Kerimov's villa in the south of france

The reason for his detention hasn't been confirmed, but an official told AFP news agency Mr Kerimov was accused of hiding millions from tax authorities while buying numerous properties on the French Riviera.

He has now been released under strict conditions and must hand over his passport to the authorities. His bail has been set at €5m (£4.4m).

Mr Kerimov's family controls Russia's largest gold producer, Polyus, and he has an estimated net worth of $6.3 billion (£4.7bn). Shares in the company fell after news of his arrest broke.

The 51-year-old is a senator in the upper house of the Russian parliament, one of two representatives from the south-western republic of Dagestan in the North Caucasus region.

Until last year, he owned the football club, Anzhi Makhachkala, which became famous for big-money signings of stars including the Cameroonian striker, Samuel Eto'o.

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