One of the co-founders of the Alfa Group and the LetterOne Group is the Russian oligarch Alexei Kuzmichev. His commercial interests span a wide spectrum, encompassing banking, retail, energy, telecommunications, and trade. Due to his involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he is well-known for his strong relationship with President Vladimir Putin and has been subject to sanctions from the US and the EU.
French police recently detained him on suspicion of tax fraud, money laundering, and sanctions violations. He is currently being held without formal charges having been brought against him. Forbes ranks him 389th among the world’s richest people, with an estimated net worth of over $6.4 billion.
- Alexei Kuzmichev was detained on Monday morning for questioning related to possible tax evasion, money laundering, and violations of international sanctions, according to a Tuesday announcement from France’s Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF), which was cited by Politico and Reuters.
- Despite not having been charged, the billionaire was nevertheless detained on Tuesday, according to Reuters. The European Union considers him to be among the most powerful people in Russia with “well-established connections” to Putin.
- Le Monde said that PNF said that as part of the operation, they searched the oligarch’s Paris apartment as well as several other places related to Alexei Kuzmichev.
- In the course of the operation, PNF claimed to have searched many places linked to Alexei Kuzmichev, including the oligarch’s Paris home, as Le Monde reported.
- PNF’s confirmation is consistent with earlier reports that Alexei Kuzmichev was taken into custody on Monday.
- The lawyer for Alexei Kuzmichev declined to comment to Reuters, and Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for the Kremlin, stated that Russia could offer diplomatic assistance as soon as Paris provides more information regarding the situation.
On October 30, French law enforcement detained Alexei Kuzmichev, a co-owner of the Russian financial group Alpha Group, on suspicion of money laundering, tax evasion, and breaking European sanctions.
Search warrants were carried out at his central Paris residence and his villa in Saint-Tropez. Unverified accounts indicate that significant sums of cash were discovered at the oligarch’s Saint-Tropez villa, although the exact total remains undisclosed.
Le Monde doesn’t provide details on the grounds for his arrest, but it emphasizes that “this marks one of the most significant actions taken by the French legal system against a Russian oligarch since the Ukraine invasion.” The businessman is believed to have a close connection with Putin.
The newspaper highlights that European sanctions prevent sanctioned individuals from accessing EU territory. However, a source with ties to the oligarch claims that Kuzmichev was already in France at the time he was added to the sanctions list, which is believed to exempt him from being seen as in violation. Additionally, his family is also in France.
The spokespersons for Kuzmichev have not commented on the reports that have appeared in the French press. Forbes placed Kuzmichev 20th on the list of Russian billionaires for 2022. After being under EU sanctions since March 15, 2022, he left Russia in the wake of the massive invasion of Ukraine.
“Russia is prepared to assist Aleksey Kuzmichev, the co-founder of the ‘Alpha Group,’ in ‘defending his rights,’ according to Dmitry Peskov, the Russian president’s press secretary. Russian officials will use diplomatic channels in France to obtain the information they need to facilitate this. Afterward, if the person in custody indicates his desire, legal assistance will be extended to him.”
In the aftermath of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Kuzmichev was subject to penalties by the EU and the UK in 2022 because of his ties to the Russian leadership. As part of its efforts to hold people responsible who profit from or support Russia’s actions in the crisis in Ukraine, the U.S. also placed sanctions on him a year later. Other well-known Russian millionaires have also been impacted by this decision.
In March 2022, Kuzmichev’s two yachts were confiscated by authorities after France had previously initiated action against them. The oligarch was able to successfully dispute the confiscation in court, nevertheless, both yachts were released as a result of procedural errors made during their detention. However, this win is mostly symbolic because Kuzmichev is unlikely to be able to relocate the vessels because the EU’s freeze still applies to them.
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