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World

AFP
December 7, 2017

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French court sets 40m-euro bail for Russian billionaire

AIX-EN-PROVINCE, France: An appeal court in southern France ordered billionaire Russian businessman and senator Suleyman Kerimov to post bail of 40 million euros ($47 million) on Wednesday pending a tax fraud investigation.
Kerimov, 51, was arrested in late November in the city of Nice over suspected tax evasion related to the purchase of luxury properties on the French Riviera, provoking an angry reaction from Moscow.
He posted bail of five million euros and handed over his passport after he was charged with tax fraud on November 23, but prosecutors lodged an appeal for a heftier bond. The oligarch, who has denied any wrongdoing, left the appeal court in Aix-en-Provence flanked by bodyguards without speaking to reporters.
The case has signalled French prosecutors’ willingness to pursue alleged money laundering and tax evasion in the top-end property market in the south of France which has long been a favourite destination for the rich and famous.
Nice prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre said on Monday that between 500 million and 750 million euros in "secret money" was involved. Investigators suspect that a shell company used huge amounts of undeclared cash, drawn from accounts in Switzerland and Monaco, in the purchases of five luxury villas on the exclusive Cap d’Antibes peninsula on Kerimov’s behalf.
Some of the transactions were thought to exceed 100 million euros. One property has since been sold, while authorities have seized the other four. The court also released estate agent Irina Sadikova, the only suspect detained in the affair who was held for two weeks. She was ordered to pay bail of 300,000 euros.

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