UPDATE: Norilsk CEO freed from French jail

Norilsk Nickel (NILSY-O, MNOD-L) CEO Mikhail Prokhorov was released by French police on Jan. 12 after being held in jail for 3 nights for his role in a suspected prostitution ring.

Prokhorov and four others have all been designated as material witnesses in the investigation. This means they won’t be charged right now but there is a slight chance charges could be laid in the future.

Investigators suspect Russian call girls, around age 20, are brought to a Courchevel resort in the French Alps through an Austrian travel agency to work during the holidays and that their pay comes in the form of expensive presents from luxury boutiques.

The probe into the prostitution ring had been going on for the last 6 months.

Often described as Russia’s most eligible bachelor, 41-year-old Prokhorov was among 26 people arrested in Courchevel, where many wealthy Russians go to celebrate the Orthodox New Year.

Norilsk spokesperson Sergei Chernitsyn told Bloomberg the arrest was “absurd” and that Prokhorov was innocent.

“The heads of our company are law abiding citizens,” Chernitsyn said.

The Guardian questioned Chernitsyn about Prokhorov’s reputation as a playboy.

“Naturally he likes girls and treats them in a natural way. But this isn’t a pretext to accuse him of pimping,” he said.

Prokhorov, worth about US$7.6 billion, was ranked the world’s 89th richest man by Forbes magazine last year. He holds 54.8% of Norilsk, one of the world’s largest nickel and palladium producers, and 51% of Polyus Gold (OPYGK-Q), Russia’s largest gold miner.


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