Monaco lawyers make a case to protect their profession during EU association agreement talks.
When news first broke in February 2015 of a dispute between Forbes 224th richest man on the planet, AS Monaco football club president Dmitry Rybolovlev, and Geneva art dealer Yves Bouvier, all eyes turned to the courts in Monaco.
Monaco resident Rybolovlev had filed a criminal complaint alleging that Bouvier overcharged him $1 billion on artwork, including a Picasso. The Monegasque police consequently arrested Bouvier at the entrance of Belle Epoque, Rybolovlev’s Monaco mansion.
In November 2018, with the epic case being drawn out in Monaco, Singapore, Switzerland and the U.S. (he sued Sotheby’s for $380 million in New York), the Russian oligarch was detained in Monaco for questioning as part of a probe into corruption and influence peddling in connection with the Bouvier case.
In a separate twist, at the end of June it was announced that Judge Edouard Levrault who has been presiding over the case, will leave his position on September 1 because his three-year term in Monaco will not been renewed.
Although Rybolovlev’s lawyer Hervé Temime is considered one of the best French criminal lawyers of his generation (he has represented Roman Polanski and Gerard Depardieu), he cannot directly represent the Russian in Monaco.
But what about the other “law firms” in Monaco? “They are just legal advisors and not attorneys at law, so they can’t plead in court as we do,” clarifies Lajoux, who graduated from an international high school in Los Angeles and holds a Master’s degree in Law from the Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis. “It’s like the diff erence between barristers and solicitors in U.K.” In a country where 32.1% of residents are millionaires, according to GlobalData WealthInsight, there are around 300 cases, civil and penal, per year represented by legal aid. Members of the Monaco bar are appointed on a rotation basis to represent and defend parties, and can’t refuse an offi cial assignment.
The Bouvier Affair isn’t the only ongoing story drawing attention in the Principality. With Monaco, alongside Andorra and San Marino, currently negotiating an association agreement with the European Union, the future of Monaco’s legal profession is equally as newsworthy.
“We are very vigilant about this negotiation as it could impact our profession because of the freedom of establishment provided for by European law,” clarifi es Lajoux. A year after talks began with the EU in 2014, Monaco’s regulated professions—lawyers, accountants, doctors, dentists, bailiff s, notaries, pharmacists, physiotherapists, masseurs, and architects— which represent approximately 1,000 employees collectively, came together to form the Comité monégasque des professions réglementées to defend their interests should the Principality sign an association agreement with the EU, which would mean freedom of establishment and circulation—and a massive infl ux of competition.
Lajoux stipulates “the prince has said that the national priority will be an impassable red line, which is, by the way, included in the Monaco Constitution, and the National Council intends to defend the criterion of nationality.
“I have faith in the outcome of the negotiations but we’ll have to see.”