Monaco Replaces Justice Chief After Russian Billionaire Corruption Scandal

Monaco said last week it was replacing its justice minister following his decision to block a new term for a judge leading a corruption inquiry involving Russian tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev, Le Monde reported.

Justice minister Laurent Anselmi will be replaced by Robert Gelli, a French prosecutor at the Aix-en-Provence appeals court in southern France.

Monaco has been roiled by a corruption scandal that has ensnared Anselmi’s predecessor as well as three senior Monaco police officials. The scandal stems from an investigation jointly run by a French judge, Edouard Levrault, who was working in Monaco under an agreement between France and the principality.

Anselmi unexpectedly turned down Levrault’s request for a renewal of his three-year term in June, leading to concern about the independence of the justice system in the Mediterranean territory.

The corruption case emerged after the Russian tycoon Rybolovlev was detained for questioning in November 2018.

He had been locked in a long-running legal battle with an art dealer, and police suspected he had tried to garner support for his cause among Monaco officials. Rybolovlev was eventually charged with influence peddling and bribery.

The billionaire, who made his fortune in the fertilizer industry and currently owns football club AS Monaco, is listed by Forbes Magazine as the 224th richest person in the world with a wealth estimated at $6.8 billion.

In a statement on Tuesday, the royal palace of Monaco said Prince Albert II’s decision to replace the justice chief “reaffirmed his commitment to an independent and impartial justice system.”

Former Monaco justice chief Philippe Narmino was forced to retire in 2017 over the corruption allegations, and was later charged with influence peddling and accepting bribes.