(Bloomberg) — French police arrested an unnamed “high-profile” Ukrainian who used forged death certificates to evade the authorities, Europol said in a statement Tuesday.
The fugitive, identified only as the “King of the Castle” by the European Union’s law-enforcement agency, was detained on Oct. 5 near Dijon, according to the statement. Officers recovered 4.6 million euros ($5.3 million) of property, including a castle, a vintage Rolls Royce Phantom and three works of art by Salvador Dali.
“The suspect is thought to be behind a complex case of international fraud and money laundering,” Europol said. French police began investigations in January over alleged suspicious transactions relating to the purchase of the castle for 3 million euros by a company in Luxembourg “whose ultimate beneficial owner was a Ukrainian citizen suspected of corruption at a large scale in his country,” according to the statement.
The man was detained with three accomplices, according to the Hague-based agency, which said it had coordinated with French, Ukrainian and Luxembourg authorities to establish that the suspect who’d used false death certificates “was not only alive, but was enjoying a lavish lifestyle in France.”
The arrests highlight how graft remains a key political issue for Ukraine even after a 2014 revolution that toppled then-President Viktor Yanukovych and exposed massive government corruption and bribery. The International Monetary Fund made the creation of an anti-corruption court a condition of unlocking its $17.5 billion bailout. Non-residents based in Ukraine were among customers implicated in about 200 billion euros that flowed through the Estonian unit of Danske Bank A/S between 2007 and 2015, much of which the lender regarded as suspicious.
Ukraine ranked 130th with Sierra Leone and Myanmar in the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, lower than any European country except Russia.
Iaroslav Trakalo, a spokesman for Ukraine’s police, and Andriy Lysenko, of the Prosecutor General’s press service, were unable to comment immediately.
— With assistance from Gaspard Sebag.