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Russian-Israeli billionaire Mikhail Fridman reportedly arrested in UK

Source close to Alfa Group businessman tells state-owned news agency that oligarch is suspected of violating sanctions imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine

File: Russian businessman, co-founder of Alfa-Group Mikhail Fridman attends a conference of the Israel Keren Hayesod foundation in Moscow, Russia, September 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool, File)
File: Russian businessman, co-founder of Alfa-Group Mikhail Fridman attends a conference of the Israel Keren Hayesod foundation in Moscow, Russia, September 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool, File)

A Russian businessman arrested Saturday in London was identified by Russian state media as Mikhail Fridman, the founder of one of the country’s largest banks and an Israeli citizen.

A statement from the UK’s National Crime Agency — which didn’t name Fridman — said he is suspected of money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the Home Office and conspiracy to commit perjury.

Officers confiscated “a number of digital devices and a significant quantity of cash” from the “multi-million-pound residence” where he was arrested.

Two other people were also arrested in connection to the case. All three have since been freed on bail after being questioned.

Russia’s TASS quoted a source close to Fridman saying he “was detained on suspicion of violating sanctions imposed on him,” without elaborating.

Born into a Jewish family in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv in 1964, Fridman studied in Moscow and went on to build a vast business empire encompassing everything from oil and gas to banking, telecoms and distribution. He is best known as a founder of Alfa Bank, the largest private financial institution in Russia.

Fridman, along with other Kremlin-linked Russian oligarchs, was hit with Western sanctions after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Although Fridman has cultivated strong ties to Putin’s administration, he has never become part of the president’s inner circle. A day after the invasion, he spoke out against the bloodshed in Ukraine, calling it a “tragedy” for both sides.

In March, he told Bloomberg News that he could not afford to move to Israel because of sanctions which had essentially frozen access to his $10 billion fortune.

Fridman has provided backing for Jewish causes and was a cofounder of the Genesis Philanthropy Group, which gives out an annual award dubbed the “Jewish Nobel.”

He and two other sanctioned Russian billionaires resigned from the group’s board earlier this year due to the sanctions, which he has vowed to contest.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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