Suleiman Kerimov. Photo by user Hlebushek

06 December 2017, 12:43

Prisoner of Côte d'Azur: why Suleiman Kerimov being investigated in France

In France, billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, a senator from Dagestan, detained on November 20 at the Nice airport, was charged with laundering money through real estate transactions. For the investigation period, the French court released Suleiman Kerimov on bail of 5 million euros, banned him from leaving the Alpes-Maritimes Department and obliged him to regularly attend the police 1.

The "Caucasian Knot" has gathered the information about the charges filed against the billionaire by the French authorities and the punishment he may face for that.

Offshore and villas on the cheap

Investigators suggest that Suleiman Kerimov, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes at 6.6 billion US dollars 2, concluded dubious transactions for several years and used front companies to purchase real estate objects on the Côte d'Azur at underprices 3. According to Jean-Michel Pretre, Public Prosecutor of Nice, the Russian senator brought to France from 500 million to 750 million euros in suitcases with cash and through money transfers 4. The funds were not declared and should have been laundered through the above described transactions.

Suleiman Kerimov and prison

In France, for laundering of money hidden from tax evasion, an individual may face up to five years of imprisonment or a fine of 375,000 euros (in case of aggravating circumstances, up to 10 years of imprisonment and up to 750,000 euros of a fine) 5.

However, the practice shows that a case may not be brought to trial in case if a defendant compensates the damage caused 6. However, there is a chance that Suleiman Kerimov will be behind bars even before the trial.

Meanwhile, the court has released Suleiman Kerimov on bail of 5 million euros. On December 6, the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence left Suleiman Kerimov free, but increased the bail amount up to 40 million euros.

"Escape from France": mission impossible?

Nice. Photo: Martinp1 https://ru.wikipedia.orgYuri Nikolaev, one of the founders of the Moscow Bar Association "Nikolaev and Partners", believes Suleiman Kerimov can leave the European Union. Meanwhile, the advocate notes if the Russian senator leaves the EU, he will not be ever able to visit the EU countries. According to Yuri Nikolaev, if Suleiman Kerimov returns to Europe, he will be arrested.

"By the way, at present and at the time of his arrest, Suleiman Kerimov did not have a diplomatic status. And, as far as I know, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has never made a statement about the illegality of the senator's detention. In the case if a diplomatic passport is issued, of course, the problem will be solved in a different way," Yuri Nikolaev stated.

The "Caucasian Knot" correspondent has been told by Valery Vanin, an advocate of the New York International Arbitration Centre, that at present, Suleiman Kerimov has legal opportunities to leave the European Union. To do that, he will need a diplomatic passport.

"Suleiman Kerimov, as a member of the Federation Council, can get a diplomatic passport that greatly facilitates the departure from the EU. To do that, Russia may formally send a delegation to France and officially include the senator in such a delegation," Valery Vanin said. He believes that with a diplomatic passport, Suleiman Kerimov will be able to leave the EU without obstacles, for example, by sea across Greece.

Valery Vanin notes that Suleiman Kerimov has serious grounds to escape: "Although the article under which Suleiman Kerimov has been charged is from the Tax Code, it is still a criminal one. This is a specific feature of the French law. Of course, prisons in France favourably differ from Russian ones, but it is still much better to stay on a yacht," Valery Vanin notes.

  1. Suleiman Kerimov is charged with tax evasion in France // Kommersant, 23.11.2017
  2. Suleiman Kerimov. Real time net worth as of 11/30/17 // Forbes
  3. Kerimov left court building in Nice in a 'straw' car // Forbes, 23.11.2017
  4. Nice: Le milliardaire russe Kerimov aurait fait entrer «entre 500 et 750 millions d'euros» clandestinement en France // 20 minutes, 05.12.2017
  5. Witch hunt at Cap d’Antibes: why senator Kerimov detained // Novaya Gazeta, 24.11.2017
  6. Suleiman Kerimov is charged with tax evasion in France // Kommersant, 23.11.2017

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