Russian tycoon denies buying Villa Leopolda

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A spokesman for Mikhail Prokhorov says the billionaire did not buy the world's most expensive villa - Villa Leopolda, built in 1902 for Belgian king Leopold II - on the French Riviera.

20 August 2008

MOSCOW - Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has not bought the world's most expensive villa, a spokesman for his Onexim group told AFP Tuesday.

The denial comes after French daily Nice-Matin reported Saturday that Prokhorov, whom Forbes magazine has ranked the world's 24th richest man with a USD 19.5 billion  (EUR 13.25 billion) fortune, paid nearly half a billion euros for the former royal palace.

Nice-Matin said the Russian tycoon bought Villa Leopolda, built in 1902 for Belgian king Leopold II on the French Riviera, for EUR 496 million.

But Onexim spokesman Igor Petrov said he "has bought nothing in France".

Prokhorov quit Norilsk, the world's biggest palladium and nickel producer and also a leading platinum and copper producer, after he and 25 other people were taken in for questioning at his hotel in the French ski resort of Courchevel over a suspected prostitution ring in 2007.

He now heads Onexim group, a Russian investment fund specialised in new technologies.
"As far as France is concerned, we cannot talk business (including real estate) for as long as outstanding issues have not been settled with local legal officials and Mikhail has not received the necessary apologies," said Petrov.

"This is a question of principle."

[AFP / Expatica]

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