French prosecutors demand 40-mn-euro bail for Russian billionaire


Aix-en-Provence (France) (AFP)

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 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 the Russian government.

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 bail.

Nice prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre said Monday that between 500 million and 750 million euros in "secret money" was at stake.

The oligarch left the courthouse in Aix-en-Provence flanked by bodyguards, without speaking to reporters.

Kerimov's detention prompted the Russian government to summon France's deputy ambassador and angry Russian MPs passed a resolution branding the arrest a violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, urging Moscow to press for his release.

Listed by Forbes magazine as Russia's 21st richest person with an estimated net worth of $6.3 billion (5.4 billion euros), Kerimov made his fortune during the privatisations that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union.

He has owned stakes at various times in Russian energy, banking and mining giants such as Gazprom, Sberbank and potash producer Uralkali.