Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev suffered a major setback in his legal battle against a Swiss art dealer after a Monaco court on Thursday quashed claims he was swindled out of up to a billion dollars (£750m).
The owner of AS Monaco football club had accused Yves Bouvier of charging him inflated prices and taking an unfair cut on a plethora of artworks he acquired for more than $2.1 billion.
The Monaco Court of Appeal found that "all investigations were conducted in a biased and unfair way” that “compromised the balance of rights of the parties”.
The court said it had uncovered links between Monaco investigators and one of Mr Rybolovlev’s lawyers, who was “in daily contact” with police to hold “illicit conversations”.
The ruling was a major setback for the Russian billionaire after a five-year feud played out in courts in five countries.
Mr Bouvier, who denies any wronging, hailed it as "yet another victory" after favourable court rulings in Singapore, Hong Kong and New York.
His lawyer Franck Michel accused Mr Rybolovlev of legally challenging the art dealer in Monaco as part of a plot to destroy the Swiss dealer’s art shipping and storage business.
But Herve Temine, one of Mr Rybolovlev’s lawyers, countered that Mr Bouvier was still being investigated in Switzerland and promised to appeal against the Monaco ruling. "Mr Bouvier should not rejoice," he said.
Mr Rybolovlev commissioned the flamboyant Swiss dealer to help amass a treasure trove of artworks by masters including Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Rodin, Matisse.
The piece de resistance was his acquisition of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which Mr Rybolovlev later sold at auction in 2017 for a record $450 million.
Their relationship nosedived after Mr Rybolovlev accused Mr Bouvier of seriously overcharging him.
However, the legal tables also turned on Mr Rybolovlev when he was subsequently charged with bribery and influence peddling.
Monaco’s justice minister was forced to retire over claims he accepted bribes in what some claim is the biggest corruption scandal in the Principality since the Second World War.
Mr Rybolovlev, who built his fortune in the fertiliser business after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is the world’s 224th wealthiest person, according to Forbes, with a net worth of $6.8bn.
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