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French prosecutors launch new probe against Russian senator

Suleiman Kerimov is charged with collusion in a large-scale tax evasion, prosecutors say

PARIS, March 20. /TASS/. Prosecutors in the French city of Nice have launched a new investigation against Russian businessman and senator Suleiman Kerimov on charges of collusion in a large-scale tax evasion, Prosecutor of Nice Jean-Michel Pretre told TASS.

"The session was held last night, he was charged with collusion in a large-scale tax evasion," the prosecutor said, noting that the senator, who is currently in France, had paid a 20-mln euro bail.

The date of the next court session on the case has not been announced.

Earlier, the Nice-Matin newspaper reported that an investigation had been launched against Kerimov upon a request of France’s Ministry for the Economy and Finance. The authorities, who combed through the deals on buying property on Cap d’Antibes in France, believe that the price of villas and mansions had been significantly lowered, thus enabling the senator not to pay big sums of money in taxes. In particular, Kerimov bought his Hier villa for 127 mln euro, while the documents sent to a tax office indicated that the price tag was 35 mln euro.

Kerimov denied allegations that he owns this property, insisting that the official owner is Swiss businessman Alexander Studhalter, whom the authorities also suspect of tax evasion. The paper says that the Russian senator had been asked to appear in court last week, where he was officially charged and released on a 10-mln euro bail. Studhalter’s lawyers said they planned to appeal this judgement, voicing confidence that it would be canceled like in previous cases.

Suleiman Kerimov, a member of Russia’s Federation Council upper parliament house, was detained at the Nice airport overnight to November 21, 2017. Right after his detention, Moscow informed Paris that as a senator, he had diplomatic immunity. However, the French Foreign Ministry said that Kerimov’s diplomatic immunity was applicable only to his official duties.

On the following day, Kerimov was charged with money laundering and tax evasion to the tune of up to 750 mln euro. In late June 2018, a court of France’s Aix-en-Provence dropped all charges against the Russian senator.