Russian oligarch Alexei Kuzmichev, a co-owner of the sanctioned Alfa Group was arrested in France on charges of tax evasion, money laundering and sanctions violations. Kuzmichev is one of the few sanctions-hit Russian oligarchs to have remained in Western Europe during Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

According to the French newspaper Le Monde, the French national financial prosecutor’s office has brought several charges against the Russian oligarch, including tax fraud and violation of EU sanctions.

On Monday evening, Kuzmichev was detained by law enforcement officers on the French Riviera in Saint-Tropez. However, how he got there remains unclear, as the sanctions include a ban on entry into the EU.

The sanctions were theoretically supposed to lead to the seizure of the oligarch’s property and a ban on entry to the EU, but a source close to Kuzmichev told reporters that he was in France shortly after the sanctions were imposed.

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The EU added Kuzmichev to the list of sanctioned Russian citizens in March 2022, immediately after Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In addition to the EU, the UK and the US have imposed sanctions on him.

Two yachts worth more than five million euros ($5.3 million) belonging to Kuzmichev, who claims to have family ties in France, were confiscated by authorities in March 2022 due to EU sanctions, a source told AFP at the time.

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According to a source close to the case, Kuzmichev has filed an appeal to have the EU sanctions against him lifted. A decision is due on Nov. 15.

Kuzmichev’s villa in Saint-Tropez and apartment in Paris were searched. About 60 people were involved in the searches, and “bundles of money” were found on the grounds.

In Europe, he is considered “one of the most influential people in Russia” who has close ties to Vladimir Putin. The oligarch is also a major shareholder in Alfa Group which he co-founded with a college friend. The group includes Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s largest taxable businesses. Additionally, Forbes magazine has listed him as one of Russia’s richest men.

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According to the Guardian, Moscow says it will defend Kuzmichev’s rights once Paris provides detailed information about his case, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.

The Cypriot passport holder was hit by the EU with sanctions in March 2022 for “actively supporting materially or financially and benefiting from Russian decision makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea or the destabilization of Ukraine,” reported the Guardian.

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