A Russian billionaire has been detained in France suspected of violating EU sanctions and tax fraud.
In one of the first actions of its kind in France since the Ukraine war began, Alexei Kuzmichev was detained in Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera.
Police raided properties in both Saint-Tropez and Paris which are linked to the tycoon, an ally of President Vladimir Putin.
Lawyers for Mr Kuzmichev were not immediately available for comment.
A co-founder of Russian finance consortium Alfa Group, he was detained on Monday in connection with alleged money laundering, tax evasion and violating international sanctions, French financial prosecutors confirmed to Reuters news agency.
By Tuesday morning no charges had been brought but he was still in custody, they said.
Dozens of police took part in raids on the 61-year-old’s Paris home and his villa in Saint-Tropez, Var, according to French daily Le Monde.
It is unclear what sanctions Mr Kuzmichev is suspected of violating, however the investigation is being carried out by France’s anti-corruption office.
The Kremlin spokesman told Russian news agencies that it would help protect his rights as a Russian citizen, if he wished.
The businessman is listed by Forbes magazine as the 389th richest person in the world, worth around $6.4bn (£5.25bn).
The European Union imposed sanctions on him in March 2022, shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, saying: “(Kuzmichev) is believed to be one of the most influential persons in Russia. He has well established ties to the Russian president.”
French authorities then impounded two yachts that he owned, La Petite Ourse and La Grande Ourse. Although proceedings against him on the yachts have been annulled, they are still subject to an asset freeze.
Mr Kuzmichev was also on the board of UK-based investment firm LetterOne along with other Russian business figures, but he resigned in March 2022 saying it was “the right thing to do”.
He is one of the few Russian billionaires to have remained in Europe since the invasion of Ukraine, and is reported to have launched an appeal to lift the EU sanctions against him, with a decision due in mid November.