Russian financial mogul and arts philanthropist Mikhail Fridman was the subject of a police probe carried out by a .U.K. agency overseeing international crime last week.
Fridman was detained on charges related to money-laundering and conspiracy to commit fraud, the Russian state news agency TASS reported. In a statement on December 3, U.K. authorities identified the 58 year-old businessman, and TASS subsequently added his name to its reporting. Fridman was later released on bail.
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He amassed a fortune in post-Soviet Russia as the cofounder of Alfa Bank, the country’s largest private investment group. Sanctioned by the European Union in February after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he was forced to step down from the board of his London-based private equity company LetterOne.
Fridman is one of a group of Russian elites, many of them arts patrons, who have faced heightened scrutiny following the invasion of Ukraine.
During his tenure at LetterOne, the firm served as a sponsor to museum exhibitions, including the Tate Modern’s 2019 retrospective on Natalia Goncharova. Little is known about Fridman’s activity in the arts as a private collector, although he has in the past appeared at auctions and has reportedly been a client of Gagosian gallery. Through the mega-dealer, he bought a $38 million Warhol in 2013, according to the New York Post.
The U.K.’s National Crime Agency said he was arrested on Thursday at his London residence on suspicion of money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the Home Office, and conspiracy to commit perjury, according to a statement released Saturday.
Graeme Biggar, director general of the NCA, said that the task force has had “success” in probing oligarchs and intercepting moves to “disguise movements of significant wealth, such as high value asset sales via auction houses.” Biggar did not detail any art-related transactions related to the probe affecting Fridman.
The EU has described Fridman as an “enabler” of Putin’s inner circle, supporting Russian state officials destabilizing of Crimea and and Ukraine. Fridman and Petr Aven, who cofounded LetterOne with Fridman an, described the measures from Western authorities taken against them as “unfounded” in a joint statement.
In an interview with Bloomberg in March, Fridman said the sanctions from the international community represent a misunderstanding of the power dynamics between private business heads and Putin, he said could be “dangerous for the future.”