Billionaire Russian senator under investigation in France

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The Kremlin was battling today to secure the release of a billionaire Russian politician who was detained by French police in Nice early this week on suspicion of tax evasion. "The court is about to rule [on whether he should be held]", Nice's Public Prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre told Sputnik.

Moscow is taking "all necessary steps" to protect Russian upper house lawmaker Suleiman Kerimov and will continue to do so, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that the Senator is also "protecting his interests himself".

Kerimov has a diplomatic passport that theoretically grants him immunity from criminal prosecution.

The so-called Anzhi project, to transform a side with little prior success from one of Russia's poorest regions, into a European powerhouse happened nearly overnight but just as quickly Kerimov, ranked by Forbes magazine as Russia's 21st wealthiest businessman, took an axe to the club's budgets.

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The Swiss businessman said he would win the case, RBC reported.

In September, local newspaper Nice-Matin reported that a villa on the Cap d'Antibes peninsula near Nice, valued at 150 million euros and thought to be owned by Kerimov, had been seized as part of an investigation.

He owned top flight soccer club Anzhi Makhachkala until he sold it in 2016. His family controls Polyus, Russia's largest gold producer.

Kerimov, 51, is among Russia's wealthiest people and a member of Russia's Federation Council.