Dmitry Rybolovlev’s $1 billion claim in a Singaporean court has been stopped
Swiss art dealer and freeport owner Yves Bouvier successfully defended an attempt by Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev to bring civil action against him in Singapore’s highest court. The judge ruled that the island state was not the right jurisdiction for the case. In its 60-page verdict, delivered by Sundaresh Menon CJ, the High Court recommended that Switzerland or Monaco would be “more appropriate fora than Singapore” for the case, also in light of ongoing proceedings against Bouvier in Monaco.
Rybolovlev, who made his estimated $7.7 billion fortune with potash mining in Russia and has since amassed a substantial art collection, asked Bouvier to buy four paintings for him. These deals were put into contracts governed by Swiss law. After that, Rybolovlev asked Bouvier to find more artworks for him. More than thirtytransactions were agreed merely orally and settled via invoices. Both men lived in Geneva at the time and the transactions were made through Swiss bank accounts. Around 2009, Rybolovlev moved to Monaco and Bouvier to Singapore.
When the Russian faced what was dubbed “the world’s most expensive divorce” from his wife Elena, who wanted half his wealth, he moved his $2-billion art collection into Bouvier’s freeport storage facility in Singapore, where it would be out of reach of Russian authorities and his ex-wife. The Swiss dealer offers high-end port warehouses in Geneva, Luxembourg and Singapore though his company Natural Le Coultre, where he stores art works and facilitates art deals in a tax-free environment.
In need of cash following his extremely expensive divorce, Rybolovlev realized that he could claim a substantial amount of money from his art dealer Bouvier if he could build a case against him for fraud. In February 2015, Rybolovlev had Bouvier briefly arrested in Monaco and charged with fraud and money laundering following a complaint filed by the oligarch. Rybolovlev has claimed that Swiss courts would deprive him of “substantial justice”, but proceedings in the Alpine country may now be his last resort.
Bouvier has maintained his innocence throughout. With his regional options now exhausted, Rybolovlev may have to concede defeat or risk facing his dreaded Swiss courts.