Russian billionaire back to work after detention

/ Source: The Associated Press

The detention of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov in France last week as part of a prostitution investigation was a "regrettable misunderstanding," a spokesman for the metals executive said Monday.

Prokhorov was back at his desk Monday after four days of questioning by French police in connection with a probe into a high-class prostitution ring, said Sergei Chernitsyn, a spokesman for Norilsk Nickel, where Prokhorov is a senior executive.

"His detention was the result of a regrettable misunderstanding," Chernitsyn said in a statement posted on the company's Web site.

"As planned ... Mikhail Prokhorov got back to his professional duties today after returning from his regular holidays," the statement said.

No charges have been brought against Prokhorov, who was released from police custody Friday after his detention in a dramatic raid at the glitzy Alpine ski resort of Courchevel — a favored playground of Russia's rich. Investigators suspect that Russian call girls were brought to the resort, and paid mainly with gifts from luxury boutiques.

Prokhorov and four others have been designated material witnesses in the case, which does not exclude charges in the future.

With a fortune of $6.4 billion, according to Forbes magazine, Prokhorov, 41, is one of Russia's wealthiest men, largely thanks to his holding in OAO Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest nickel producer, and Polyus Gold, Russia's biggest gold miner.