Ferrexpo's owner detained in France at Ukraine's request

By Olena Harmash and Mathieu Rosemain

KYIV/PARIS (Reuters) -Billionaire Kostyantyn Zhevago, the controlling shareholder of London-listed iron pellet producer Ferrexpo, has been arrested and is being detained in France at Ukraine's request, an official at the local prosecutor's office said on Wednesday.

Zhevago was arrested on Tuesday evening at the Courchevel ski resort in the French Alps, the official said, adding that Ukraine sought the businessman's extradition.

The 48-year-old will appear before the appeals court of Chambery in southeastern France on Jan. 5, the official said.

Ukraine’s state bureau of investigation DBR, which was the first to say publicly that Zhevago had been arrested, said the billionaire was wanted on suspicion of embezzlement and money-laundering linked to the disappearance of $113 million from the now bankrupt lender Finance & Credit Bank.

Ferrexpo, whose shares fell around 5% on the news of its controlling shareholder's arrest, did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

The company had a market capitalisation of just above 1 billion pounds ($1.20 billion) as of Wednesday. Zhevago is worth $1.3 billion, according to Forbes.

Reuters was unable to reach Zhevago or his legal representatives for immediate comment.

"You know that (Zhevago) is a defendant in several criminal proceedings at the DBR. Extradition documents are being prepared," communications adviser for DBR, Tetyana Sapyan, told Ukrainian television.

In 2021 Ukraine's DBR reported that Zhevago had been put on an international wanted list in connection with the investigation into Finance & Credit Bank, which the former lawmaker had indirectly controlled.

Ukraine-focused miner Ferrexpo has been hit hard this year by disruptions to its production and shipments caused by the conflict in the country.

($1 = 0.8317 pounds)

(Reporting by Olena HarmashEditing by Tomasz Janowski and Barbara Lewis)