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Russia Summons French Diplomat Over Billionaire Kerimov's Detention In Tax Fraud Case

Suleiman Kerimov in 2012

Russia summoned a senior French diplomat in Moscow in connection with the detention of Russian billionaire and federal lawmaker Suleiman Kerimov in France as part of a tax-evasion case.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed to news agencies on November 22 that it had summoned the charge d'affaires of the French Embassy in Moscow in connection with Kerimov's detention in the French Riviera resort of Nice.

Kerimov, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes to be $6.3 billion, was detained November 20 at the Nice Cote D'Azur International Airport.

Kerimov represents the southern region of Daghestan in Russia's upper house of parliament, known as the Federal Council, and the Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier that it had notified France that he has diplomatic immunity.

Russia's state-run RIA Novosti news agency, however, cited an unidentified Federation Council source as saying that Kerimov had not traveled to France using his diplomatic passport because he was not there on official business.

French authorities have not publicly disclosed details about potential wrongdoing by Kerimov. But French news reports have cited unidentified sources close to the case as saying he is suspected of tax evasion involving tens of millions of euros.

Kerimov's detention has triggered outrage in Moscow, where the Kremlin pledged its support for the billionaire lawmaker.

"The senator status and the fact that he is a Russian citizen is a guarantee that we will, of course, put in all possible efforts to defend his lawful interests," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on November 22.

Reuters cited an unidentified public prosecutor as saying the same day that Kerimov would appear before a judge in a procedural step that could have him placed formally under judicial investigation.

Much of Kerimov's fortune comes from controlling Russia's largest gold producer Polyus, though he has also held shares in potash giant Uralkali and construction company PIK Group.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, TASS, Interfax, and RIA Novosti