Russian Billionaire Detained in Monaco for Influence Selling

Russian Billionaire Detained in Monaco for Influence Selling

Russian billionaire Dmitri Rybolovlev — who bought President Trump’s Palm Beach estate for $95 million in 2008 — has been detained for questioning in Monaco for influence peddling in a corruption scandal that already cost the posh gambling mecca’s top justice official his job.

Law enforcement agents Tuesday morning also raided Rybolovlev’s Monaco home — a $300 million penthouse known as La Belle Epoque, which Prince Albert used to visit in less controversial days.

Rybolovlev, estimated by Forbes to be worth $6.8 billion, is accused of using his wealth and elite access to his popular Monaco FC soccer club to influence local officials before and after they arrested Swiss businessman Yves Bouvier.

Rybolovlev has filed fraud allegations against Bouvier, whom he had hired as an art adviser. He claims Bouvier secretly owned 38 works of art that he sold to Rybolovlev for $2 billion — earning himself a hefty $1 billion profit.

As the owner of the Monaco FC football club, Rybolovlev allegedly bribed officials with soccer tickets and even a helicopter trip to his ski chalet as he pushed for Bouvier’s prosecution.

Monaco’s justice minister, Philippe Narmino, was forced to take early retirement last year after Le Monde revealed the extent of the bribery in the weeks before and after Bouvier’s arrest in 2015.

One of the paintings involved in the scandal was allegedly a work by Leonardo da Vinci, “Salvator Mundi,” which Rybolovlev claims Bouvier secretly bought for $80 million and sold to Rybolovlev for $127.5 million.

Rybolovlev then sold it at auction to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman — implicated in the embassy murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi — for $450 million.

The painting was supposed to be publicly revealed in September, but that never happened, leading some experts to question its authenticity.

Monaco can legally detain Rybolovlev for two days without charging him.

In an emailed statement, Rybolovlev’s lawyers said they “regret the breach of confidentiality of the inquiry.”

Rybolovlev’s spokesman declined comment.

During the 2016 presidential election, Trump said he had no business dealings with Russians, despite the fact that Rybolovlev paid $54 million more than Trump paid for the estate just four years earlier, in 2004. At the time of the sale, Trump reportedly was cash-strapped and could not get bank loans.

In 2011, Rybolovlev also bought a then-record $88 million penthouse from ex-Citigroup head Sandy Weill at 15 Central Park West.