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Monaco's ex-justice chief charged in Russian tycoon fraud inquiry
AS Monaco President Dmitry Rybolovlev looks on during the French League Cup final football match between Monaco (ASM) and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP.

MONACO (AFP).- Monaco's former justice minister has been charged as part of a long-running corruption inquiry involving the billionaire Russian owner of the principality's football club, prosecutors said Thursday.

Philippe Narmino, who was forced to retire in 2017 over the allegations, is suspected of influence peddling and accepting bribes, the prosecutor's office said.

The move comes after Dmitry Rybolovlev was detained for questioning this week over a scandal which erupted after claims he was swindled out of nearly a billion euros by a Swiss art dealer.

Rybolovlev has been charged with influence peddling and bribery.

Narmino's wife and son also face conspiracy charges, as does one of Rybolovlev's lawyers.

Since 2015, the Russian tycoon has been locked in a legal battle with Yves Bouvier, an art dealer he accuses of charging inflated fees for dozens of works of art.

But police now suspect he may have used illicit means to garner support for his cause among Monaco officials.

Rybolovlev's lawyer, Tetiana Bersheda, who allegedly acted as a go-between with the top Monaco justice official, has also been charged with collusion.

Bersheda and Narmino's wife and son were also detained for questioning this week.

"All five charged remain free, but are barred from meeting with people involved in the case and must answer summons from the judge", Monaco's top prosecutor Sylvie Petit-Leclair told AFP.

The case emerged after Bersheda sent prosecutors a telephone recording purporting to back up charges of fraud against Bouvier.

A judge then required Bersheda to hand over her cellphone, which led authorities to uncover compromising material involving alleged collusion between Rybolovlev and top Monaco police officials, as well as Narmino.

Prince Albert II, the tutelar head of state of this Mediterranean principality, has promised an independent investigation into the matter.

Rybolovlev's lawyers have meanwhile appealed the seizure of the phone, saying its contents are protected by client-attorney priviledge.

© Agence France-Presse

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