Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev accused of murder
The Russian billionaire owner of AC Monaco, Dmitry Rybolovlev, spent 11 months in jail in 1996, accused of ordering the murder of his former business parter Evgeny Panteleymonov. Rybolovlev was released on bail and later acquitted, however a shadow remains over his name. The accusation by Oleg Lomakin, who was found guilty of having organised the murder, that Rybolovlev ordered the hit has never been disproved.
Rybolovlev and Panteleymonov were business partners in Uralkali, Russia’s largest producer of potash. Rybolovlev became chairman of the board in 1996, two years after having joined the board. According to media reports, his aim was to gain independence from the International Potash Company (IPC), a single export channel for the industry.
Rybolovlev also owned a 40%-stake in Neftechimik, of which Panteleymonov was the general director. However, the company was heavily controlled by the Russian mafia, and Panteleymonov tried to convince Rybolovlevto stop cooperating. Rybolovlev was arrested in connection with the murder of Panteleymonov, in 1995, the day after Uralkali voted for independence of the IPC.
The motifs for the hit on Panteleymonov were never fully explained, but when billions in exportable commodities and the Russian mafia is involved, things never are straight forward.
The perhaps easiest explanation is that Panteleymonov became inconvenient to Rybolovlev by urging him to cut ties with the criminal underworld that controlled the cash structure of Neftechimik. Although, this motif could easily be applied to any mob hitman, sent from the mafia to avoid this lucrative link from being severed.
The 48-year-old father of two daughters is no stranger to the rough styles of post-Communist Russia. Several attempts on his life were reportedly made, and he eventually relocated his family to Switzerland. He has since gained a reputation as a lavish spender, collector of expensive property and art and — perhaps most famously — his long-standing divorce battle with his ex-wife Elena, who turned down a $1bn settlement and is demanding $4.5bn, which would be the most expensive divorce in history.
A worrying and revealing sign was the letter Elena sent to the Geneva prosecutor in December 2008 when she warned that should anything happen to her, then her husband, Dmitry, should be at the top of the suspects list. A trained doctor like her husband, Elena was no stranger to Dmitry’s “unconventional methods” in business dealings.
Having moved from Russia to Geneva, then Cyprus to Monaco, Rybolovlev is trying to hide his dark past in order to obtain a precious Monegasque passport that would shield him from a possible Russian prosecution — to Vladimir Putin’s outcry he left the country with billions — and Swiss divorce battle.
Nonetheless, Prince Albert of Monaco is keen on preventing any ties to the Russian underworld, in particular when it comes to its justice system. The shady past of Rybolovlev has made local authorities nervous. His lack of explanation as to why he was jailed all those years ago does not help. Rybolovlev seems to have something to hide, and Monaco is no fool.