By Jean Christou and Peter Stevenson
ELENA Rybolovleva, the former wife of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev who, pre-bailout, had almost a 10 per cent stake in Bank of Cyprus, was detained in Cyprus on Monday in connection with the alleged theft of a diamond ring believed to be worth $25 million, police said.
The case was reported to Limassol CID yesterday morning by a lawyer from Bolton Trustees who filed the complaint on behalf of the Domus Trust, a Cypriot International Trust.
“Pursuant to a criminal complaint filed, Elena Rybolovleva was today detained by the police authorities of Cyprus upon her arrival to Cyprus. The complaint filed relates, inter alia, to the theft of trust property (a rare item of an extremely high value) by Rybolovleva,” a written statement from Bolton Trustees said.
The statement said the company had no intention of commenting on the substance of the complaint filed with the police but a police spokesman confirmed that the rare and valuable item was a diamond ring worth some $25 million which the 48-year-old Rybolovleva had allegedly borrowed and given to her 25-year-old daughter in Switzerland back in 2009 but never returned to the trust.
“The trustee of a Cypriot International Trust has a legal duty and obligation to preserve and protect the trust property. The discharge of the trustee’s fiduciary duties commands that all steps are taken to protect the title and legal ownership of the trust property in the most efficient way possible and always in accordance with applicable laws,” Bolton Trustees said.
Rybolovleva arrived in Cyprus on a flight from Switzerland yesterday morning and was stopped by police who will question her and determine the need to remand her in custody, the police spokesman said. He said legal services were consulted on the matter and the police would act diligently to make sure the law was upheld.
Bolton Trustees, in their statement, added that they were obliged to proceed accordingly to protect the trust property.
“It is very important for Cyprus, as a jurisdiction and an international financial centre, to protect the companies and trusts which have shown confidence in its economy, financial and legal system,” the Trustees said.
Dmitry Rybolovlev made much of his fortune from the 2010 sale of his stake in fertiliser company Uralkali for $6.5 billion.
In the Cyprus bailout he is estimated to have been left with, along with Bank of Cyprus and other ‘old shareholders’, one 20th of his total stake in the bank. As a depositor, losing 47 per cent of his money in the haircut, he will however be compensated with new shares in lieu of the lost deposits.
Rybolovlev’s Limassol-based lawyer in Cyprus, Andreas Neocleous told the Cyprus Mail on Monday, the issue with the ring had nothing to do with his client and declined to comment further.
The couple’s divorce – they were married 23 years – has been acrimonious with several lawsuits involving expensive properties in places like New York. Rybolovleva filed for a divorce in 2008, accusing her husband of cheating. There were also accusations that Rybolovlev had moved his art collection, valued at between $500 million and $1 billion, to London and Singapore by using trusts in various countries ostensibly to hide assets from his wife.
Trusts were also set up in Cyprus after the law was updated in March 2012. It was speculated that the law change was partly to benefit foreign investors like Rybolovlev. At the time it was said that pressure to speed up the changes had come through senior BoC officials to facilitate their biggest shareholder in the hopes he would take advantage of a new share issue designed to help re-capitalise the bank. However Rybolovlev did not exercise his rights. It was said his decision was linked to the bank’s refusal to grant him a seat on the board.
According to the New York Times the Rybolovlevs met on their first day in college in Russia, witnessing his ascent from doctor to billionaire entrepreneur. The reports said he only found out about the divorce on New Year’s Eve 2008 from his bankers after his accounts were frozen.
“He was not a model husband,” Sergey Chernitsyn, a spokesman for Rybolovlev told the NYT at the time. “Mr Rybolovlev never denied the infidelities, but the wife knew about it for many years and passively accepted it.”