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Dmitry Rybolovlev.
Dmitry Rybolovlev.

Monaco Judge Drops Russian Billionaire’s Fraud Case Against Swiss Dealer Yves Bouvier

The fraud investigation filed by the Russian fertilizer magnate and art collector Dmitry Rybolovlev against the Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier has been dismissed by a court of appeals in Monaco, reports Artnet News. The legal feud began in January 2015, when Rybolovlev accused the dealer of swindling him out of nearly $1 billion by inflating the prices of thirty-eight art transactions—including Rybolovlev’s $128 million acquisition of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi in 2013.

“All investigations 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 rights of the parties,” said the appellate judge in a statement that Bouvier’s attorneys provided to Artnet News.

The decision follows a 2017 scandal the French press called “Monaco-gate,” in which Rybolovlev’s representatives were found to have bribed the country’s former minister of justice Philippe Narmino with ski trips, private helicopter rides, and other gifts to sway the court rulings in the billionaire’s favor. The corruption scandal also suggested Rybolovlev’s close ties with, and outsize influence over, high-ranking members of the Monaco police and justice system. US officials dropped the fraud investigation against Bouvier after Rybolovlev resold the Leonardo to a Saudi prince in 2017 for a record-breaking $450 million, making it the most expensive artwork ever sold.

Representatives for Bouvier, who has maintained his innocence and claimed that he was charging market prices for the works, said in a statement: “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.”

In response to the Monaco court’s dismissal of the case, Rybolovlev’s Parisian lawyer, Hervé Temine, announced their intent to appeal the decision. “Bouvier should not rejoice too soon,” he told Agence France-Presse. “The decision can be overturned and he is still investigated in Switzerland.” Rybolovlev is still pursuing legal action against the art dealer in the US, London, Paris, and Geneva.