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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

French Police Target Berezovsky

NICE, France -- French police have searched a Mediterranean villa in a money-laundering probe targeting billionaire Boris Berezovsky, a judicial source said Thursday.

Investigators searched the elegant property near the southern town of Antibes on Wednesday to try to determine whether Berezovsky owned the house and whether its purchase was used to launder money from Russia, the source said.

A fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin and one of Russia's once-mighty and hugely wealthy oligarchs, Berezovsky is wanted in Moscow on charges of fraud and embezzlement. Britain has granted him asylum.

French officials were also investigating the origin of funds used to buy other property in the area, the source said.

Investigators suspected Berezovsky bought the Chateau de la Garoupe property for some 22 million euros ($28 million) through complicated financial operations.

Berezovsky said by telephone in London that he was "very surprised about what happened yesterday because I have not had any questions from the French authorities before.

"My mother was there. She's 81. She told me that she didn't even recognize what happened. A helicopter landed and several tens of armed people in masks started to run all over the house. She decided maybe it was some kind of performance of the Cannes Film Festival. Because exactly that time she was preparing to go to the Cannes festival."