Monaco Drops Fraud Charges Against Art Dealer

Published: 13 December 2019

Yves BouvierYves Bouvier (Photo by: Hpetit21, Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0)

By Aida Cerkez

Lawyers representing a Swiss art dealer announced on Thursday that fraud and money laundering charges initiated against their client in Monaco by a Russian oligarch were dismissed.

Billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev accused in 2015 Yves Bouvier of defrauding him of nearly US$1 billion by misinterpreting how he obtained 38 art pieces he sold him for $2 billion.

Monaco's Court of Appeal “concluded that the investigation against Bouvier was carried out with a systematic partiality and bias which tainted the whole procedure,” said a statement from Bouvier’s law firm Cabinet d'avocats d'Antin – Brossollet.

Bouvier was briefly detained in 2015 and released on bail. 

The legal dispute then saw Rybolovlev detained for questioning and charged in 2018 over his alleged efforts to bribe officials involved in the legal dispute. The scandal led to the resignation and arrest of Monaco Justice Minister Philippe Narmino.

‘Monacogate’ erupted when Le Monde revealed the content of text messages that were exchanged between participants of the Bouvier-Rybolovlev dispute that allegedly show Rybolovlev’s efforts to influence the course of justice and have Bouvier arrested.

Rybolovlev is accused of having offered Narmino and his wife a vacation in his Gstaad residence with all expenses paid, including gifts and fine dinners and of having paid 100,000 euros to the couple’s son.

Three days after the vacation offer, Bouvier was detained, the law firm’s statement said.

The Monaco court found that all investigations related to the dispute “were conducted in a biased and unfair way without the defendant being in a position to retrospectively redress these serious anomalies that permanently compromised the balance of the rights of the parties," it explained.

"This victory proves what we have been saying from the very beginning, namely that the procedure was tainted and completely biased in favor of the Russian oligarch," Bouvier stated in the release.

The ruling marks the end of legal proceedings in Monaco against Yves Bouvier, the law firm said.

No, it doesn’t, Rybolovlev’s lawyers fired back in a statement sent to the OCCRP on Saturday. It only concerned the procedural validity of the investigation and is not related to a bribery and corruption probe launched following Bouvier’s complaint against Rybolovlev, who “remains confident that he will be exonerated.”

“This decision is not final. We challenge it and will immediately appeal to the Court of Revision,” Hervé Temime and Thomas Giaccardi said.

“Today's decision does not put an end to the prosecution of Yves Bouvier in Monaco,” the lawyers said. “Moreover, a criminal investigation remains ongoing in Geneva where Yves Bouvier was charged for having defrauded our clients in the course of 38 transactions over 12 years, a case he will have to answer.”

Editor's note: This story was updated with further reaction from Rybolovlev's lawyers.