Russian Billionaire Rybolovlev Is Suspect in Corruption Probe in Monaco Stemming From Bitter Dispute With Art Dealer
11/14/2018On the heels of last week’s post (see here) about Russian art collector Dmitry Rybolovlev’s lawsuit against Sotheby’s, we write now with a brief update. This week, authorities in Monaco formally named Rybolovlev a suspect in an investigation into allegations of corruption and influence-peddling.
Our previous posts (here, here and here) contain more detail, but in brief, for the last several years the art world has been following the fallout from a bitter dispute between Rybolovlev and his former art dealer, Yves Bouvier. Bouvier helped Rybolovlev acquire a massive and valuable art collection—but their relationship soured when Rybolovlev allegedly learned that Bouvier had charged significant markups on some of Rybolovlev’s purchases. The feud has led to court proceedings in several countries, including the United States, where just last month, Rybolovlev sued Sotheby’s for allegedly aiding Bouvier’s machinations.
But now, Rybolovlev may be on the defensive in at least one jurisdiction. While prosecutors have not provided much detail, the official allegations against him apparently relate to events in 2015, when Rybolovlev filed a criminal complaint against Bouvier in Monaco, leading to Bouvier’s arrest. The proceedings against Bouvier are ongoing—but this week’s developments indicate that authorities now suspect that Rybolovlev worked with Monaco justice minister Philippe Narmino to improperly influence the case against Bouvier. The corruption investigation has also implicated Narmino (who retired when rumbles of impropriety began surfacing), as well as Narmino’s wife and son and Rybolovlev’s lawyer. Reports suggest that he intends to contest the allegations. He is now reportedly back in Moscow, having been released after questioning.
The criminal investigation in Monaco adds to what is already a complicated web of pending legal proceedings arising out of the the Rybolovlev-Bouvier battle, which we’ll continue to follow as it unfolds.
Art Law Blog