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Major development in #Rybolovlev affair



Monaco's Court of Appeal has dismissed the criminal proceedings against Yves Bouvier (pictured) initiated by the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, owner of the AS Monaco football club. It was concluded that the investigation against Bouvier was carried out with a systematic partiality and bias which tainted the whole procedure.

The criminal procedure launched by the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, against Yves Bouvier has been thrown out by the Monaco Court of Appeal. It found that "all investigations were conducted in a biased and unfair way without the defendant being in a position to retrospectively redress these serious anomalies that permanently compromised the balance of rights of the parties".

The Court also said that "the evidence of the proceedings were all collected under conditions which significantly undermined the rights of the defendant".

Similarly, it concluded that "all the acts of the investigation as well as the introductory submission of February 24, 2015 is tainted by this grievance (infringement of the rights of the defense) as well as the subsequent charges against Yves Bouvier or Tania Boltadjieva (Rappo) on February 28, 2015 and all subsequent acts of instruction which are the direct consequence thereof, since these irregularities which seriously tainted the search and the establishment of the truth impacting in a continuous and systematic way the entire procedure.”

This decision is a major turning point in the Rybolovlev affair and marks the end of legal proceedings in Monaco against Yves Bouvier.

Yves Bouvier said: "This victory proves what we have been saying from the very beginning, namely that the procedure was tainted and completely biased in favor of the Russian oligarch."

The Court of Appeal of Monaco has endorsed the explanations of the defense of Yves Bouvier. After saying that the investigation was the result of "dubious work" that was not disclosed during the official investigation. The Court admitted that a trap had been laid for Yves Bouvier to arrest him and that the civil parties were used, with the consent of the investigators and the Public Ministry, to forge unfair evidence.

Finally, the Court accepted the main argument of Yves Bouvier's defense: the systematic tainted the entire procedure.

This decision compounds the difficulties for Dmitry Rybolovlev, owner of the AS Monaco football club, which is currently being targeted with criminal investigations in Monaco, France and Switzerland.

In the principality, Dmitry Rybolovlev, his lawyer Tetiana Bersheda, as well as several officials and former Monegasque ministers are being targeted with a criminal investigation for corruption - the biggest corruption scandal in the Principality since the Second World War, known as "Monacogate” or "The Rybolovlev affair".

Texts found in the phone of Dmitry Rybolovlev's lawyer showed a very close relationship between Monegasque investigators and officials and the Russian oligarch. Dmitry Rybolovlev is accused of having:

  • Offered a Monaco-Gstaad round-trip flight in private helicopter for the Director of the Judiciary, Phillipe Narmino and his wife, and accommodation in the oligarch's chalet, just three days before Yves Bouvier's arrest in February 2015
  • Paid more than 100,000 eurosto the son of the Director of the Judiciary Phillipe Narmino.
  • Presented numerous gifts to Monaco's officials, including Prime Minister Michel Roger, Interior Minister Paul Masseron, Finance Minister Marco Piccinini and Minister of Social Affairs Stéphane Valeri. In February 2015, just after the opening of the investigation against Yves Bouvier, Ms. Bersheda offered a samovar to police chief Regis Asso.
  • Hired officials and family members at the AS Monaco Football Club. For example, after leaving office as Minister of the Interior responsible for investigating teams against Yves Bouvier and others, Mr. Masseron was immediately hired by Dmitry Rybolovlev at the AS Monaco club.

This judgment proves the courage shown by the Monagascan justice system for the defense of the rule of law in a challenging environment. In September 2019, Prince Albert had to replace the director of legal services, Laurent Anselmi, after he abruptly put an end to the term of the French judge Edouard Levrault, who was previously in charge of the Rybolovlev investigation from the Monegasque justice department.

This victory of Yves Bouvier is also that of a team of lawyers in Monaco, France and Switzerland composed of Luc Brossollet, Charles Lecuyer, David Bitton, Frank Michel and Alexandre Camoletti.

Using their right to reply, Ms Sandrine GIROUD and Mr Marc HENZELIN, Attorneys for Dmitry RYBOLOVLEV and the RYBOLOVLEV family said:

"We are aware of the decision from the Court of Appeal of Monaco in relation to an ongoing case against Yves Bouvier and Tania Rappo for fraud and money laundering.

This decision, which will be challenged and appealed in the Court of Revision, remains entirely procedural and has no influence on the ongoing case in Geneva, where Yves Bouvier faces charges of fraud against our clients in relation to 38 transactions involving the purchase of art works over a 12-year period and resulting in losses of CHF 1 billion. Yves Bouvier will have to be held accountable for his actions.

In October, we filed a 400-page additional complaint which explains step by step how the fraud perpetrated against our clients was committed. This complaint includes documents which have no relation to the case in Monaco. These are dozens of emails between our clients and Yves Bouvier as well as emails obtained through an ongoing case in New York. These documents are in the hands of the Geneva judicial authorities who may use them as they choose for their investigation.

We remain confident about the outcome of the case in Geneva, where professional fraud is being prosecuted. The defendant’s actions to delay the proceedings cannot conceal the allegations at the heart of the case, which are very serious."

Statement from Mr. Hervé Temime and Mr. Thomas Giaccardi, Attorneys for Dmitry Rybolovlev and the Rybolovlev family.

"We note today’s decision from the Court of Appeal of Monaco.

The Court of Appeal was called upon to rule on only one point: the procedural validity of the investigations, arrests and indictments that took place in connection with the investigation of fraud and money laundering following the complaint made by our clients in January 2015 against Yves Bouvier and Tania Rappo.

This decision is not final. We challenge it and will immediately appeal to the Court of Revision.

As a reminder, from 2003 to 2015 Yves Bouvier was mandated by the companies of the Rybolovlev family to acquire numerous works of art. He led them to believe that he was negotiating on their behalf to obtain the best price from the owners of the works. But, in reality, he was acting for himself. He described to them in detail purely imaginary negotiations, whereas he had in fact already negotiated - for himself - a price much lower than the one he claimed to have obtained. Deceived by this fraudulent scheme, the companies of the Rybolovlev family paid him hundreds of millions in unauthorized markups for more than ten years.

Given the appeal to the Court of Revision, today's decision does not put an end to the prosecution of Yves Bouvier in Monaco. Moreover, a criminal investigation remains ongoing in Geneva where Yves Bouvier was charged for having defrauded our clients in the course of 38 transactions over 12 years, a case he will have to answer.

Finally, we remind everyone that today's decision concerns only the case of fraud and money laundering alleged against Yves Bouvier, that has been investigated since 2016 by investigative judge Morgan Raymond. It is unrelated to another ongoing investigation in Monaco concerning charges of traffic of influence and corruption made by Yves Bouvier against Dmitriy Rybolovlev. Presumed innocent, Dmitriy Rybolovlev remains confident that he will be exonerated in this separate case, in which, after 2 years of thorough investigation, no evidence against him could be presented."




Cars and pavements washed away as Belgian town hit by worst floods in decades




The southern Belgian town of Dinant was hit by the heaviest floods in decades on Saturday (24 July) after a two-hour thunderstorm turned streets into torrential streams that washed away cars and pavements but did not kill anyone, writes Jan Strupczewski, Reuters.

Dinant was spared the deadly floods 10 days ago that killed 37 people in southeast Belgium and many more in Germany, but the violence of Saturday's storm surprised many.

"I have been living in Dinant for 57 years, and I've never seen anything like that," Richard Fournaux, the former mayor of the town on the Meuse river and birthplace of the 19th century inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax, said on social media.

A woman works to recover her belongings following heavy rainfall in Dinant, Belgium July 25, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron
A woman walks in an area affected by heavy rainfall in Dinant, Belgium July 25, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

Rainwater gushing down steep streets swept away dozens of cars, piling them in a heap at a crossing, and washed away cobbles stones, pavements and whole sections of tarmac as inhabitants watched in horror from windows.

There was no precise estimate of the damage, with town authorities predicting only that it would be "significant", according to Belgian RTL TV.

The storm wreaked similar havoc, also with no loss of life, in the small town of Anhee a few kilometres north of Dinant.

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Czech Republic

NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses Czechia's €7 billion recovery and resilience plan



The European Commission has today (19 July) adopted a positive assessment of Czechia's recovery and resilience plan. This is an important step towards the EU disbursing €7 billion in grants under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). This financing will support the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Czechia's recovery and resilience plan. It will play a key role in helping Czechia emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RRF is at the heart of NextGenerationEU which will provide €800bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across the EU. The Czech plan forms part of an unprecedented co-ordinated EU response to the COVID-19 crisis, to address common European challenges by embracing the green and digital transitions, to strengthen economic and social resilience and the cohesion of the Single Market.

The Commission assessed Czechia's plan based on the criteria set out in the RRF Regulation. The Commission's analysis considered, in particular, whether the investments and reforms set out in Czechia's plan support the green and digital transitions; contribute to effectively addressing challenges identified in the European Semester; and strengthen its growth potential, job creation and economic and social resilience.

Securing Czechia's green and digital transition  

The Commission's assessment of Czechia's plan finds that it devotes 42% of its total allocation to measures that support climate objectives. The plan includes investments in renewable energy, the modernisation of district heating distribution networks, the replacement of coal-fired boilers and improving the energy efficiency of residential and public buildings. The plan also includes measures for nature protection and water management as well as investment in sustainable mobility.

The Commission's assessment of Czechia's plan finds that it devotes 22% of its total allocation to measures that support the digital transition. The plan provides for investments in digital infrastructure, the digitalization of public administration, including the areas of health, justice and the administration of construction permits. It promotes the digitalisation of businesses and digital projects in the cultural and creative sectors. The plan also includes measures to improve digital skills at all levels, as part of the education system and through dedicated upskilling and reskilling programmes.

Reinforcing Czechia's economic and social resilience

The Commission considers that Czechia's plan effectively addresses all or a significant subset of the economic and social challenges outlined in the country-specific recommendations addressed to Czechia by the Council in the European Semester in 2019 and in 2020.

The plan provides for measures to tackle the need for investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, sustainable transport and digital infrastructure. Several measures aim at addressing the need to foster digital skills, improve the quality and inclusiveness of education, and to increase the availability of childcare facilities. The plan also provides for improving the business environment, mainly through extensive e-government measures, a reform of the procedures of granting construction permits and anti-corruption measures. Challenges in the area of R&D shall be improved by investment geared at strengthening public-private cooperation and financial and non-financial support to innovative firms.

The plan represents a comprehensive and adequately balanced response to Czechia's economic and social situation, thereby contributing appropriately to all six pillars referred to in the RRF Regulation.

Supporting flagship investments and reform projects

The Czech plan proposes projects in all seven European flagship areas. These are specific investment projects which address issues that are common to all member states in areas that create jobs and growth and are needed for the twin transition. For instance, Czechia has proposed €1.4bn to support the energy efficiency renovation of buildings and €500 million to boost digital skills through education and investments in upskilling and reskilling programmes for the entire labour force.  

The Commission's assessment finds that no measure included in the plan does any significant harm to the environment, in line with the requirements laid out in the RRF Regulation.

The arrangements proposed in the recovery and resilience plan in relation to control systems are adequate to prevent, detect and correct corruption, fraud and conflicts of interests relating to the use of funds. The arrangements are also expected to effectively avoid double funding under that Regulation and other Union programmes. These control systems are complemented by additional audit and control measures contained in the Commission's proposal for a Council Implementing Decision as milestones. These milestones must be fulfilled before Czechia presents its first payment request to the Commission.

President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today, the European Commission has decided to give its green light to Czechia's recovery and resilience plan. This plan will play a crucial role in supporting a shift towards a greener and more digital future for Czechia. Measures that improve energy efficiency, digitalize public administration and deter the misuse of public funds are exactly in line with the objectives of NextGenerationEU. I also welcome the strong emphasis the plan places on strengthening the resilience of Czechia's health-care system to prepare it for future challenges. We will stand with you every step of the way to ensure that the plan is fully implemented.

Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said: “Czechia's recovery and resilience plan will provide a strong boost to the country's efforts to get back its feet after the economic shock caused the pandemic. The €7bn in NextGenerationEU funds that will flow to Czechia over the next five years will support a wide-ranging programme of reforms and investments to build a more sustainable and competitive economy. They include very sizeable investments in building renovation, clean energy and sustainable mobility, as well as measures to boost digital infrastructure and skills and the digitalisation of public services. The business environment will benefit from the promotion of e-government and anti-corruption measures. The plan will also support improvements in healthcare, including reinforced cancer prevention and rehabilitation care.”

Next steps

The Commission has today adopted a proposal for a Council Implementing Decision to provide €7bn in grants to Czechia under the RRF. The Council will now have, as a rule, four weeks to adopt the Commission's proposal.

The Council's approval of the plan would allow for the disbursement of €910m to Czechia in pre-financing. This represents 13% of the total amount allocated to Czechia.

An Economy that Works for People Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said: “This plan will put Czechia on the path to recovery and boost its economic growth as Europe gears up for the green and digital transitions. Czechia intends to invest in renewable energy and sustainable transport, while improving the energy efficiency of buildings. It aims to roll out greater digital connectivity across the country, promote digital education and skills, and digitalize many of its public services. And it places a welcome focus on improving the business environment and justice system, backed by measures to fight corruption and promote e-government – all in a balanced response to the Czech economic and social situation. Once put properly into practice, this plan will help to put Czechia on a sound footing for the future.”

The Commission will authorize further disbursements based on the satisfactory fulfilment of the milestones and targets outlined in the Council Implementing Decision, reflecting progress on the implementation of the investments and reforms. 

More information

Questions and answers: European Commission endorses Czechia's recovery and resilience plan

Recovery and Resilience Facility: Questions and answers

Factsheet on Czechia's recovery and resilience plan

Proposal for a Council Implementing Decision on the approval of the assessment of the recovery and resilience plan for Czechia

Annex to the Proposal for a Council Implementing Decision on the approval of the assessment of the recovery and resilience plan for Czechia

Staff-working document accompanying the proposal for a Council Implementing Decision

Recovery and Resilience Facility

Recovery and Resilience Facility Regulation

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Death toll rises to 170 in Germany and Belgium floods



The death toll in devastating flooding in western Germany and Belgium rose to at least 170 on Saturday (17 July) after burst rivers and flash floods this week collapsed houses and ripped up roads and power lines, write Petra Wischgoll,
David Sahl, Matthias Inverardi in Duesseldorf, Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels, Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt and Bart Meijer in Amsterdam.

Some 143 people died in the flooding in Germany's worst natural disaster in more than half a century. That included about 98 in the Ahrweiler district south of Cologne, according to police.

Hundreds of people were still missing or unreachable as several areas were inaccessible due to high water levels while communication in some places was still down.

Residents and business owners struggled to pick up the pieces in battered towns.

"Everything is completely destroyed. You don't recognise the scenery," said Michael Lang, owner of a wine shop in the town of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in Ahrweiler, fighting back tears.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Erftstadt in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the disaster killed at least 45 people.

"We mourn with those that have lost friends, acquaintances, family members," he said. "Their fate is ripping our hearts apart."

Around 700 residents were evacuated late on Friday after a dam broke in the town of Wassenberg near Cologne, authorities said.

But Wassenberg mayor Marcel Maurer said water levels had been stabilising since the night. "It's too early to give the all-clear but we are cautiously optimistic," he said.

The Steinbachtal dam in western Germany, however, remained at risk of breaching, authorities said after some 4,500 people were evacuated from homes downstream.

Steinmeier said it would take weeks before the full damage, expected to require several billions of euros in reconstruction funds, could be assessed.

Armin Laschet, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia and the ruling CDU party's candidate in September's general election, said he would speak to Finance Minister Olaf Scholz in the coming days about financial support.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was expected to travel on Sunday to Rhineland Palatinate, the state that is home to the devastated village of Schuld.

Members of the Bundeswehr forces, surrounded by partially submerged cars, wade through the flood water following heavy rainfalls in Erftstadt-Blessem, Germany, July 17, 2021. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen
Austrian rescue team members use their boats as they go through an area affected by floods, following heavy rainfalls, in Pepinster, Belgium, July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman

In Belgium, the death toll rose to 27, according to the national crisis centre, which is co-ordinating the relief operation there.

It added that 103 people were "missing or unreachable". Some were likely unreachable because they could not recharge mobile phones or were in hospital without identity papers, the centre said.

Over the past several days the floods, which have mostly hit the German states of Rhineland Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia and eastern Belgium, have cut off entire communities from power and communications.

RWE (RWEG.DE), Germany's largest power producer, said on Saturday its opencast mine in Inden and the Weisweiler coal-fired power plant were massively affected, adding that the plant was running at lower capacity after the situation stabilized.

In the southern Belgian provinces of Luxembourg and Namur, authorities rushed to supply drinking water to households.

Flood water levels slowly fell in the worst hit parts of Belgium, allowing residents to sort through damaged possessions. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited some areas on Saturday afternoon.

Belgian rail network operator Infrabel published plans of repairs to lines, some of which would be back in service only at the very end of August.

Emergency services in the Netherlands also remained on high alert as overflowing rivers threatened towns and villages throughout the southern province of Limburg.

Tens of thousands of residents in the region have been evacuated in the past two days, while soldiers, fire brigades and volunteers worked frantically throughout Friday night (16 July) to enforce dykes and prevent flooding.

The Dutch have so far escaped disaster on the scale of its neighbours, and as of Saturday morning no casualties had been reported.

Scientists have long said that climate change will lead to heavier downpours. But determining its role in these relentless rainfalls will take at least several weeks to research, scientists said on Friday.

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