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.


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Norwegian start-up has raised NOK 13 billion without marketing a single product

Norway’s controversial serial entrepreneur Jostein Eikeland doesn’t need to show his invention to raise funds. Claims that he can produce a giga-battery that lasts longer and has more capacity than anything the world has seen before is enough to raise NOK 13 billion for his latest venture, Alevo Group. That’s around US dollars1.6 billion. Eikeland claims he will sell to Tesla and Samsung, never mind that he has never shown his innovative battery to the world.

This kind of secrecy and defiance of market convention has attracted a dubious set of investors. Among them are, according to Norway’s daily newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv, a pyramid company, the country’s most notorious drug smuggler Gjermund Cappelen and Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev.

Registered in Valais, Switzerland, Alevo counted around 20 shareholders at its latest annual meeting in Geneva on June 29, 2016. At the meeting, two new board members were unanimously approved: Kuzma Marchuk and Mikhail Sazonov. Both are close to Dmitry Rybolovlev, having worked with him during the 1990s and 2000s in Russia.

Rybolovelev made his billions (he is worth at least $6.5 billion) with a fertiliser, or potash, mining company called Uralkali. He bought shares in the company while working as a broker in Moscow following the collapse of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union. Uralkali mined in the Perm region in central Russia, far away from the prying eyes of Moscow’s new elite. Rybolovlev could foster his mafia connections, although this backfired when the mafia framed him for the contract murder of one of Uralkali’s business partners. Rybolovlev spent 11 months in prison before the major witness changed his testimony. His mafia connections, were also proven beyond doubt.

To avoid prison again, Rybolovlev eventually followed his family in Switzerland. Uralkali – and by extension Rybolovelev – caused one of the biggest environmental disasters when one of its abandoned mines causes gigantic sinkholes. Hundreds of metres wide and deep, the vast holes forced 17,000 residents of Berezniki to leave the city. New sinkholes continue to appear in the region, but Rybolovlev was never held to account.

Rybolovlev is now in the clear, having sold his shares in the company in 2010, and moving first to Switzerland and eventually to billionaires’ playground Monaco, where he bought the most expensive penthouse overlooking the harbour for $200 million. He placed the proceeds of the shares sale in trusts in Cyprus, Panama and the British Virgin Islands and embarked on an unprecedented spending spree: properties including Donald Trump’s Palm Beach mansion, art including the world’s most expensive painting (Mark Rothko’s “No. 6” for $186 million), the controlling share in the AS Monaco football club, shares in several football players (attracting accusations of conflict of interest) and the Greek island of Skorpios, bought from the Onassis family for his daughter Ekaterina. The $120 million spent on shares in Alevo seem small change by comparison.

It is not clear how much Gjermund Cappelen has invested in the company, but his past may impress Rybolovlev. The Singapore-born drug lord was arrested repeatedly during the 1980s and 90s, and now faces a major trial together with his accomplice, the policeman Eric Jensen. Cappelen has admitted to smuggling 16 tons of hashish into Norway.

Neither Rybolovlev nor Eikeland answered questions by Dagens Naeringsliv newspaper about the product or revenues that Alevo claims to produce. In fact, Eikeland’s lawyers tried to remove the article, claiming their client was ill. With shareholders as dubious as Rybolovlev and Cappelen one can see why Eikeland may not feel so good.

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Before he became the majority shareholder of Uralkali and an influential billionaire and art collector, Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev started off with a very successful career in the Russian finance and industry sectors, benefitting from the huge wave of privatisations in the 1990s. For the first half of the decade, Dmitry Rybolovlev offered financial services, even though he justified the source of his initial investment money rather vaguely. He later became President of a check investment fund and a new-born joint-stock commercial bank, Credit FD. Industrial investments followed up as a further opportunity to multiply investments and benefits.

At the time, Dmitry Rybolovlev was also convicted and later acquitted for ordering the murder of his business partner Evgeny Panteleymonov. Even though the case has remained closed for almost twenty years, a shadow remains on his personality, and some rumors say the case might be reopened.

Russia in the ‘90s was as rough and cruel as Chicago in the ‘30s: it wasn’t hard to make a lot of money if you knew the right people – and more importantly, the fewer the competitors, the easier the money. The Perm region, like other Russian regions with strong industrial heritage and potential, had its number of money-hungry traders and wannabes. Some cities there hardly counted more than a few major local employers (potash-mining Uralkali was one of them). The profitability of these companies defined the economic survival of an entire county and of thousands of families living there.

Dmitry Rybolovlev started doing business in the area with what became a private executive board as much as an influence group. His business partners Mssrs Lomakin, Nelyubin, Chernyavsky, Rustamov and Makarov all associated with him and started participating in auctions and investment tender processes to purchase stocks of massive industrial firms like Uralkali and Silvinit. Among his partners, Rybolovlev was in charge of stocks purchasing and management. He was trusted to make the right decisions and target the right investments.

The dark side of this, and an unfortunately typical side of Russian businesses at the time, was making sure that competitors wouldn’t buy stocks from their target companies. The judicial report for the criminal investigation into Panteleymonov’s murder mentions what appears to be the use of “authority” by the group – ie, using their mafia ties to reduce competition.

Panteleymonov was a partner of Rybolovlev’s business ventures in the mid-90s. Rybolovlev owned 40% of the stakes of the company which Panteleymonov had been appointed a General director for. Although not a founding member of the business clan, Panteleymonov was an influential businessman and thought to be reluctant to common mafia-like business methods. The reason why he got shot was never clear but the corrupt atmosphere around the Russian industry sector certainly helps forming a hypothesis.

When arrested for the murder, Rybolovlev’s business partner Lomakin accused Rybolovlev of purchasing weapons and ordering Panteleymonov’s murder. But in the absence of evidence other than Lomakin’s declarations, the Russian justice system acquitted Rybolovlev who soon moved with his family and his guards to Switzerland. He benefitted from a very helpful verbal and financial support from local politicians like congressman Vladimir Pokhmelkin and governor Gennadiy Igumnov. From then on, Rybolovlev never stopped avoiding justice. His wise investments in Monaco and new mundane sociability have done the rest to transform his dark past into a very discreet skeleton in the closet.

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