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.
Iaroslav Trakalo, a spokesman for Ukraine’s police, and Andriy Lysenko, of the Prosecutor General’s press service, were unable to comment immediately.
Separately, Swiss authorities froze $2 million in accounts belonging to a Yanukovych ally, Sergey Kurchenko, at the request of Ukrainian law enforcement, according to a statement from the Prosecutor General’s office in Ukraine on Tuesday.