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In brief

Rybolovlev-Bouvier case: Geneva Court of Justice rules in favour of AS Monaco owner

Rybolovlev Bouvier
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The complex case, which is making international headlines, will now enter a new phase.

It is the latest in a series of twists in the case that involves the Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier, and has been picked up by the Swiss, French, British and American press in recent days. The Swiss justice system overturned the decision to close proceedings that were initiated in response to a lawsuit brought by AS Monaco president Dmitry Rybolovlev against Yves Bouvier, who he accuses of fraud. The case was closed last year by the Geneva Public Prosecutor’s Office, but the Russian billionaire immediately appealed. In their verdict, the appeal court judges considered that the charges against the defendants were “plausible” and “irrefutable”.

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Seven years of legal battles

The case dates back to January 2015, when the owner of AS Monaco accused Yves Bouvier of swindling him out of nearly one billion Swiss francs when he bought 38 works of art for a total of 2 billion euros. The Russian billionaire had filed complaints in Monaco (for fraud that he claims was committed during transactions involving three paintings), in Switzerland (for the 38 artworks), and in Singapore and New York.

According to Dmitry Rybolovlev’s Swiss lawyers, “abusing his position, inventing ploys and lying to the point of fabricating non-existent negotiations with vendors, Yves Bouvier systematically misled the plaintiffs about the purchase prices. He thus fraudulently made improper capital gains totalling nearly one billion Swiss francs, while secretly paying nearly 100 million Swiss francs to Tania Rappo [a Monegasque resident – Ed.] in order to maintain the trust of Dmitry Rybolovlev and his entourage.”

In December 2019, the Monegasque trial was dismissed by the Court Chamber of Monaco’s Court of Appeal on the grounds that it was unfair and had been conducted in a “biased and unjust manner”.

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That decision then led to the case being dismissed by the Geneva Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Swiss prosecutor argued that there was a lack of public interest, that the criteria for fraud had not been met and, above all, that the case’s dismissal in Monaco had compromised the evidence presented by the plaintiff.

“It is perfectly feasible to continue the investigation while respecting fundamental rights”

In a ruling handed down last week, the Criminal Appeal Chamber of the Geneva Court of Justice explained that “prosecution remains in the public interest” and stressed that “the alleged damages caused” to the companies connected to Rybolovlev’s family trusts were close to “one billion Swiss francs” (more than one billion euros). The Geneva newspaper Le Temps quotes the Swiss judges: “The flaws in the Monégasque proceedings gave the Public Prosecutor’s Office cause to close the Geneva trial. This is a surprising approach. […] It is perfectly feasible to continue the investigation while respecting fundamental rights.” The court dismisses each of the grounds that were put forward by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and refers the case back to the Public Prosecutor’s Office to resume the proceedings.

Mr Giroud and Mr Mauron, Dmitry Rybolovlev’s lawyers, stated: “This ruling demonstrates the vacuity of Yves Bouvier’s defence and the absurdity of his fanciful statements. […] In view of the evidence submitted, the Court upholds our clients’ position, […] and concludes that deceit cannot be denied.” Counsel for the AS Monaco boss are “convinced that the criminal responsibility of Yves Bouvier and his accomplices will be determined swiftly.”

Mr. David Bitton, one of Mr. Bouvier’s lawyers in Geneva, also reacted to the court’s ruling, “We welcome the Criminal Court of Appeal’s decision. The Geneva Prosecutor’s Office will further its investigation in order to prove beyond doubt that Mr Rybolovlev’s allegations are unfounded.” Yves Bouvier also made a personal statement via a press release: “The Court’s ruling merely reopens the investigation so that certain aspects can be examined more thoroughly. […] I am therefore keen for the legal process to be able to establish the truth once and for all.”

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