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UPDATE-1: French confirm Russian tycoon arrest in prostitution case

21:23 11/01/2007
(Adds paragraphs 4-6)

PARIS, January 11 (RIA Novosti) - Prosecutors in France confirmed Thursday that Russian metals tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov and several of his compatriots are being held in custody over alleged involvement in prostitution-related activities.

Prokhorov, a co-owner of Interros, which manages key assets in Russia's nickel, platinum and gold mining sectors, was apprehended Tuesday in the Courchevel ski resort, in the French Alps, when Lyons police raided several hotels in an operation targeting prostitution among minors.

"A total of 26 people, most of them Russians, were detained in the operation, aimed against prostitution involving minors," a source in the Lyons Prosecutor's Office said. "From Courchevel, the detainees were taken to Lyons, where 15 people were released after questioning while the other 11, including Prokhorov, were left in custody."

Lyons' prosecutor said a decision on the detainees' fate will be made Friday. He said most detainees are unlikely to face any charges.

A source in the Russian Embassy in France told RIA Novosti the detainees may be kept in custody for 72 hours. After that, they should be released or face charges. The term of their custody expires Saturday morning.

The source also said the detainees have not asked for consular aid, but an Embassy official has headed for Lyons to meet with them.

Prostitution itself is legal under French law, but profiting from the earnings of prostitutes, and prostitution involving minors, are illegal.

Interros spokesperson Yelena Kovaleva said earlier the company's top management have not received any official notification of Prokhorov's arrest, and that they view it as a "mistake." She said Prokhorov is currently on vacation, and will return to work next Monday.

It remains unclear exactly what accusations have been leveled by French police against Prokhorov, who ranks tenth on Forbes' list of Russian billionaires.

A reporter with the Lyons-based periodical Le Progres said they relate to drugs, prostitution and money laundering.

Prokhorov, a Courchevel regular, is said to throw lavish parties every time he comes to the resort, inviting along dozens of young prostitutes, according to Russian business daily Vedomosti.

The tycoon owns a 54.8% stake in the Russian company Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest producer of nickel and platinum, and 51% in Polyus Zoloto, the country's No. 1 gold mining company.

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RIA Novosti UPDATE-1: French confirm Russian tycoon arrest in prostitution case

21:23 11/01/2007 Prosecutors in France confirmed Thursday that Russian metals tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov and several of his compatriots are being held in custody over alleged involvement in prostitution-related activities. >>

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