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French court of appeals rejects Nice prosecutors’ request to arrest Russian senator

The court has increased the bail for the Russian senator from 5 mln to 40 mln euros

AIX-EN-PROVENCE /France/, December 6. /TASS/. Russian senator Suleiman Kerimov will not be placed into custody under an investigation into money laundering in France and will stay free on his own recognizance, but court control will be tightened and the bail will be increased from 5 mln to 40 mln euros, the Aix-en-Provence court of appeals ruled at Wednesday’s closed hearing, TASS reports from the courtroom.

"Mr Kerimov will stay free under court control, some court control measures will be tightened, and the bail sum will be increased to 40 mln euros," a council for the prosecution told TASS.

That said, she noted that now French prosecutors will continue an investigation into "Kerimov’s case" "on a routine basis." "Now everything returns to Nice; the dates for further hearings have not been determined yet," she said.

A source familiar with the situation told TASS that tightened court control over Kerimov means "extending the list of people he is prohibited from communicating with." "This list will be updated, and the freedom of movement is already as restricted as possible: in fact, he [Kerimov] was placed under house arrest," the source said.

The Aix-en-Provence judges thus partially satisfied the request of prosecutors from Nice that initiated this probe and demanded harder pre-trial restrictions for Kerimov during the investigation. Nice Prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre told TASS that he considers release of the Russian senator on his own recognizance as a measure that "does not correspond to the existing risks and large sums, as well as to Mr Kerimov’s personality."

In their motion, the prosecutors insisted upon changing pre-trial restrictions for Kerimov and asked to temporarily place him into custody or increase the bail to 50 mln euros. Aix-en-Provence considered this request excessive, but agreed to tighten court control over Kerimov whose freedom was already restricted by recognizance under which he could not leave the Alpes-Maritimes department.

Kerimov’s detention

Federation Council member Suleiman Kerimov was arrested by French police at Nice’s airport overnight into November 21. Employees of the Russian Consulate General in the commune of Villefranche-sur-Mer responded to the site immediately after receiving information about the arrest.

The next day he was charged under the article "Money laundering and tax evasion." After the hearing, the Nice court ruled to release the senator on a 5 mln euro bail with restricted freedom of movement. Since then, Kerimov cannot leave the Alpes-Maritimes department and has to regularly report to a local police station.

The case was then submitted to the investigating magistrate who is currently conducting pre-trial checks. All the actions conducted by the investigating magistrate are protected by the secrecy of investigation. Nice Prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre earlier told TASS that the pre-trial investigation into Kerimov’s case will last "at least six months."

The incident sparked a backlash from Russian policymakers. Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko said that Kerimov’s detention had unleashed "a hunt for Russian politicians."

The Russian Foreign Ministry told TASS on Tuesday that Moscow had informed Paris that Kerimov is a senator and has a diplomatic passport and immunity on the territory of other states. However, the French foreign ministry stated that Kerimov’s diplomatic immunity affects his direct official powers only.