A French judge has placed Russian businessman and parliament member Suleiman Kerimov under formal judicial investigation, charging him with tax evasion. The senator was arrested earlier this week amid a money laundering probe.
“He has been charged with tax evasion and laundering that money. The court is about to rule [on whether he should be held],” Nice’s Public Prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre told Sputnik. Being formally investigated under France’s legal system does not always lead to a court trial.
Kerimov, who is among the richest people in Russia, was snatched by French law enforcement after arriving in Nice on Monday night. The arrest, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, violated the protection from “coercive actions” he enjoys as a Russian senator from the Republic of Dagestan.
The politician is estimated by Forbes to be worth $7.4 billion. The French authorities reportedly suspect him of purchasing real estate in the French Riviera through shell companies to avoid paying taxes. The 51-year-old denies any wrongdoing.
The Russian billionaire is presently in temporary detention. A ruling on Kerimov’s custody arrangements going forward will be decided by a court “in the very near future,” the prosecutor said.
On Wednesday, the French Foreign Ministry claimed that Kerimov’s diplomatic immunity extends only to his direct status as a Russian official. Kerimov, however, allegedly arrived in Nice on personal business not connected to any state affairs, and did not have his diplomatic passport with him. An official decision on the senator’s diplomatic immunity will be considered by a French judge, it is being reported.
Russia had summoned the Charge d’Affaires of the French Embassy in Moscow to clear up any uncertainty over Kerimov’s diplomatic status. French authorities have, so far, not publicly disclosed details about the charges being brought against Kerimov. Earlier, news reports indicated that the Russian billionaire is suspected of involvement in a tax evasion scheme that enabled the laundering of millions of euros.
Source : RT