French police have arrested Russian billionaire Alexei Kuzmichev, one of the co-founders of the Alfa Group who is targeted by EU sanctions, on suspicion of tax fraud and violating sanctions, sources close to the case said.
Kuzmichev was apprehended in the Riviera resort of Saint-Tropez, a source, who asked not to be named, told AFP late on Monday.
Police carried out raids on several locations linked to the tycoon including his Paris home, they said.
The European Union placed Kuzmichev on a list of Russian nationals targeted by sanctions in March 2022, following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to the EU, Alfa Bank — in which Kuzmichev holds a large stake — is one of Russia’s biggest tax payers and the businessman himself counts among “the most influential people in Russia” with close links to President Vladimir Putin.
The French probe is spearheaded by the judiciary’s anti-corruption unit, which is investigating the businessman notably for dissimulation of tax fraud and violating international sanctions, the sources said.
Two yachts worth more than five million euros ($5.3 million) owned by Kuzmichev, who claims to have family ties in France, were seized by the authorities in March 2022 as a result of the EU sanctions, a source told AFP at the time.
Kuzmichev has launched an appeal to get the EU sanctions against him lifted, a source close to the case said.
A decision is due on November 15.
Forbes magazine lists Kuzmichev, 61, who co-founded Alfa with his college friends and now fellow oligarchs Mikhail Fridman and German Khan, as the 61st richest person in the world with a total fortune of $6.4 billion.