Diplomatic row as Russian billionaire MP faces tax evasion probe in France

Moscow: A diplomatic row has started between Russia and France after a French judge ordered an investigation against a billionaire lawmaker from Russia’s Dagestan for suspected tax evasion.
Suleiman Kerimov, 51, one of Russia’s richest men from North Caucasus region, was arrested on Monday night after his arrival at Nice airport.
Russia, in turn, summoned a French diplomat in Moscow to protest against Kerimov’s detention.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Pesko said the government will make all efforts to defend the lawmaker’s rights.
Russian officials said the arrest violated the protection he enjoys from “coercive actions” as a Russian senator from the Republic of Dagestan.
French Foreign Ministry countered this by saying Kerimov arrived in Nice on personal business and he did not have his diplomatic passport with him.
While Russian media reports say Kerimov has denied any wrongdoing, French authorities suspect he bought real estate in French Riviera through shell companies to evade tax. If found guilty, he may face up to 10 years.
Kerimov has been released on a bail of €5m (£4.4m) under strict conditions. He has to surrender his passport, remain on the territory of the Alpes-Maritimes department, report to police several times a week and avoid contacting certain persons.
Shares in Polyus, Russia’s largest gold producer, controlled by Kerimov’s family, fell after news of his arrest.