(BBG) French police arrested an unnamed “high-profile” Ukrainian who allegedly used forged death certificates to evade the authorities and now faces possible extradition to his home country.
The fugitive, identified only as the “King of the Castle” by the European Union’s law-enforcement agency Europol, was detained on Oct. 5 near Dijon, according to a Tuesday statement. Officers recovered 4.6 million euros ($5.3 million) of property, including a 12th-century feudal castle, a vintage Rolls Royce Phantom, jewelry and three works of art by Salvador Dali. In parallel, the spokeswoman of Ukraine’s prosecutor general said the country will seek to extradite Dmytro Malynovskyi from France.
“The suspect is thought to be behind a complex case of international fraud and money laundering,” Europol said. French police began investigations in January over alleged suspicious transactions relating to the purchase of the castle for 3 million euros by a company in Luxembourg “whose ultimate beneficial owner was a Ukrainian citizen suspected of corruption at a large scale in his country,” according to the statement.
The man was detained with three accomplices, according to the Hague-based agency, which said it had coordinated with French, Ukrainian and Luxembourg authorities to establish that the suspect who’d used false death certificates “was not only alive, but was enjoying a lavish lifestyle in France.
The arrests highlight how graft remains a key political issue for Ukraine even after a 2014 revolution toppled then-President Viktor Yanukovych and exposed massive government corruption and bribery. The International Monetary Fund made the creation of an anti-corruption court a condition of unlocking its $17.5 billion bailout. Non-residents based in Ukraine were among customers implicated in about 200 billion euros that flowed through the Estonian unit of Danske Bank A/S between 2007 and 2015, much of which the lender regarded as suspicious.
The office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general has prepared documents to seek the extradition of Malynovskyi, spokeswoman Larysa Sargan said Tuesday in a post on Facebook.
“The ‘resurrected’ citizen forged his death certificate and is now using a forged passport of a foreign country,” she said. Prosecutors found out that Malynovskyi stole 12 million euros from a private company in March to May 2015 and channeled the money to offshore accounts, she added.
Separately, France’s gendarmerie, a law-enforcement body that took part in the arrests, provided the name of the castle — the Château de La Rochepot, a quarter of an hour away by car from world-renowned vineyard village Chassagne-Montrachet.
A Dijon investigative magistrate leading the case charged two men of dual Ukrainian and Moldavian nationality and subsequently placed them in pretrial detention, the gendarmerie said in its separate statement. Two women, also dual nationals from the same countries, were charged and then released.
In France, investigative magistrates can decide to press charges in a procedure known as “mise en examen” when there is “serious and consistent” evidence showing likely involvement in the matter under investigation.
Separately, Swiss authorities froze $2 million in accounts belonging to a Yanukovych ally, Sergey Kurchenko, at the request of Ukrainian law enforcement, according to a statement from the prosecutor’s office in Kiev on Tuesday.
Ukraine ranked 130th with Sierra Leone and Myanmar in the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, lower than any European country except Russia.