Alexei Kuzmichev, one of the billionaire co-founders of Russia's Alfa Group, has been detained in France on allegations of money laundering, breaching sanctions and tax avoidance, with his villa in Saint-Tropez and his Paris mansion searched, according to Le Monde. During the searches, which involved 60 police, stacks of cash have allegedly been found.
Kuzmichev, together with his Alfa partners Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan, has been under EU sanctions since March 2022, so he is supposedly banned from entering France. But according to Le Monde sources at the time the sanctions were imposed, the billionaire was already in France.
In March 2022 Kuzmichev and Khan withdrew from Alfa Bank's shareholder structure. Through ABH Holdings, they owned 21% and 16% in the bank, respectively. They transferred their stakes in to another bank’s beneficiary, Andrey Kosogov. Later, Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman withdrew in March 2023 by selling their stakes to Kosogev for RUB178bn ($2.3bn).
More recently, mobile major Veon exited its anchor asset Russian mobile operator VimpelCom through a management buyout (MBO) in a cashless deal. Veon is 47.9% owned by LetterOne, an investment vehicle of Alfa Group shareholders Mikhail Fridman, German Khan and Kuzmichev.
When the EU imposed sanctions on Kuzmichev, they said he was “one of the leading Russian business persons involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue” to the Kremlin and claimed he was “one of the most influential persons in Russia [with] well-established ties to the Russian president”.
France seized two yachts he owns on the French Riviera as part of an asset freeze last year, according to the Financial Times. Judges later ruled that French customs authorities had “clearly misused” their authority , though he is still unable to move the yachts under the asset freeze.