Spain court drops Russia tycoon probe over supermarket buy
A Spanish court on Monday said it had dropped an investigation into Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman’s 2019 purchase of Spain’s Dia supermarket chain.
The court did not say why it dismissed the investigation into the Kremlin-friendly oligarch, one of Russia’s richest men who acquired a controlling stake in the struggling supermarket chain in May 2019.
The hostile takeover by Fridman’s Luxembourg-based investment company LetterOne followed a bitter dispute with Dia’s former management during which its share price slumped.
Five months later, Spain’s National Court opened an investigation into claims LetterOne acted in a “coordinated and concerted way” to lower Dia’s share price so he could buy it, raising suspicions of market manipulation.
When LetterOne first bought into Dia in 2017, the chain’s shares were worth 4.50 euros but when it launched its takeover bid, it offered 0.67 euros per share.
Known as a ruthless operator who is notoriously litigious, Fridman has always strenuously defended his own interests, insisting he was one of the main “victims” of Dia’s financial troubles.
The same court also dropped a similar investigation into Fridman’s affairs last month, following allegations he acted to bring down the value of Zed Worldwide, a Spanish digital entertainment firm.
Fridman, who also holds Ukrainian and Israeli nationality, was suspected of secretly working to engineer the firm’s collapse in order to take it over, with prosecutors citing tactics “typically used by the Russian mafia”.
But the case was dismissed by the National Court late last year.
Through his LetterOne investment fund, Fridman controls businesses in the energy, telecoms, health and technology sectors.
He is also one of the founders of Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest privately-held lender, and owns X5 Group, the country’s biggest food retailer.