Russian billionaire arrested

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The Independent Online

One of Russia's wealthiest men, the metals magnate Mikhail Prokhorov, has been arrested by French police in a crackdown on a suspected prostitution ring at an Alpine ski resort.

Investigators suspect Russian call girls were brought to the resort in Courchevel, a favoured playground of Russia's rich.

A total of 26 people were taken in for questioning on Tuesday. Last night 15 were still being held in Lyon, including Mr Prokhorov, and magistrates extended their 48-hour detention period until tomorrow.

They could face charges of "aggravated procuring in an organised band" and "criminal association".

Mr Prokhorov, the 41-year-old chief executive of the Russian mining giant OAO Norilsk Nickel, is ranked No 89 on Forbes magazine's 2006 list of the world's richest people. He is worth $6.4bn (£3.2bn) according to Forbes, largely thanks to his holding in Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest nickel producer, and Polyus Gold, Russia's biggest gold miner.

The arrests were made in several hotels at fashionable Courchevel, which has its own airstrip for private jets. Russian tycoons flock to the resort.

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