Art Market

A judge threw out a Russian billionaire’s charges of fraud against Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier.

Christy Kuesel
Dec 13, 2019 5:46PM, via Bloomberg

Russian businessperson and President of French football club AS Monaco Dmitry Rybolovlev poses in Paris on September 24, 2015 in front of two allegedly stolen paintings by Pablo Picasso, Espagnole a l'Eventail (left) and Femme se Coiffant (right), which he purchased from a Swiss art dealer. Photo by Patrick Kovarik/AFP via Getty Images.

A Monaco judge has thrown out Russian fertilizer billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev’s claims of fraud and money laundering against Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier. The feud started back in 2015, when Rybolovlev claimed Bouvier swindled him out of about $1 billion by overcharging on 38 works the dealer sold him over 10 years. Among those works was Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500), which Rybolovlev purchased for $127.5 million, and sold for $450 million, smashing all existing auction records.

The judge said the investigations into Bouvier had been “conducted in a biased and unfair way,” and that the art dealer hadn’t had the opportunity to rectify “these serious anomalies,” according to Bloomberg. Last year, Rybolovlev was briefly detained by Monaco police while they searched his Monte-Carlo penthouse in connection with allegations of corruption and peddling influence.

Rybolovlev has argued Bouvier overcharged him by lying about what he had spent to acquire the works, while Bouvier asserts he was not Rybolovlev’s broker and merely saw the Russian billionaire as a customer. The case has involved courts in Monaco, Paris, New York, London, Geneva, and Singapore. The judge’s decision isn’t the end of the Monaco case either: Local prosecutors separately charged Rybolovlev last year with corruption, arguing Rybolovlev tried to influence justice officials in Monaco; in one case, he invited Monaco’s then-justice minister to the Swiss Alps. As a result, Bouvier requested the judge dismiss Rybolovlev’s original claims against the art dealer.

Rybolovlev’s lawyers say they will appeal the Monaco decision, and his lawyers in Switzerland say the criminal case in Geneva is still ongoing. In a statement reported by the Financial Times, Bouvier asserted that the procedure had been “tainted and completely biased in favor of the Russian oligarch.”

Further Reading: In Bouvier Affair’s Latest Twist, Court Halts Lawsuit in Singapore

Christy Kuesel