French court demands 40 million euro bail for Russian lawmaker

FILE PHOTO: Dagestani born tycoon Suleiman Kerimov watches a soccer match between Anzhi and Spartak in Moscow, Russia April 22, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - A French judge has ordered a prominent Russian businessman and lawmaker Suleiman Kerimov pay a 40 million euro (£35 million) bail for his release pending a tax fraud and money laundering investigation, a judicial source said on Wednesday.

Kerimov was arrested on Nov. 20 in Nice on the French Riviera, prompting the Kremlin to intervene and say it would "do everything in our power to protect his lawful interests".

Kerimov appeared before a judge for the bail hearing on Tuesday, the source said.

Russia's state-run Rossiya 24 TV station reported after his arrest that Kerimov had denied any guilt. Another Russian lawmaker, Rizvan Kurbanov, last month described Kerimov's arrest as an "unprecedented demarche by the French".

Originally from the mainly Muslim Russian region of Dagestan, Kerimov built his lucrative natural resources business through a combination of debt, an appetite for risk, and political connections.

He owned top flight soccer club Anzhi Makhachkala until he sold it in 2016.

Kerimov's fortune peaked at $17.5 billion in 2008 before slumping to just $3 billion in 2009, according to Forbes magazine.

The investigation centres on the purchase of several luxury residences on the French Riviera via shell companies, something that could have enabled Kerimov to reduce taxes owed to the French state, a source close to the investigation told Reuters after Kerimov's arrest.

(Reporting by Jean-Francois Rosnoblet; Editing by Richard Lough and Alison Williams)