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Monaco ousts justice chief after Russian billionaire scandal

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Marseille (AFP)

The royal palace of Monaco said Tuesday that it was replacing its justice minister following his decision to block a new term for a judge leading a corruption inquiry involving a Russian billionaire.

Justice minister Laurent Anselmi will be replaced by Robert Gelli, a French prosecutor at the Aix-en-Provence appeals court in southern France.

The principality has been roiled by a corruption scandal that has ensnared Anselmi's predecessor as well as three senior Monaco police officials.

The scandal stems from an investigation jointly run by a French judge, Edouard Levrault, who was working in Monaco under an agreement between France and the principality.

Anselmi unexpectedly turned down Levrault's request for a renewal of his three-year term in June, leading to concern about the independence of the justice system in the Mediterranean territory.

In a statement on Tuesday, Monaco said Prince Albert II's decision to replace the justice chief "reaffirmed his commitment to an independent and impartial justice system."

The corruption case emerged after the Russian tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev was detained for questioning in November 2018.

He had been locked in a long-running legal battle with an art dealer, and police suspected he had tried to garner support for his cause among Monaco officials.

Rybolovlev was eventually charged with influence peddling and bribery.

Former justice chief Philippe Narmino was forced to retire in 2017 over the corruption allegations, and was later charged with influence peddling and accepting bribes.

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