‘King of the Castle’ Ukrainian fugitive who faked death found enjoying ‘lavish’ life in Burgundy chateau

Detectives dubbed him “the King of the Castle” after he used forged death certificates to evade capture while living the high life in a Burgundy chateau surrounded by works of Salvador Dali and a vintage Rolls Royce Phantom.

Yesterday, Europol announced it had caught a “high-profile” Ukrainian fugitive on October 5 who had been enjoying a “lavish lifestyle in France” and is “thought to be behind a complex case of international fraud and money laundering”.

Three other men were arrested in the swoop – two Ukrainians and a Moldavian. Two Ukrainian women have been placed under investigation.

Gendarmes also seized €4.6 million (£4m) of jewels and property, including a medieval castle identified by the Telegraph as Chateau de la Rochepot in the wine growing Côte d’Or – which until recently belonged to heirs of former French president Sadi Carnot.

In the haul were three unnamed Dali works.

Locals said the vintage Rolls was seen towed from the castle in recent days. 

While not named by the European Union’s law enforcement agency, one Ukraine-based reporter in Radio Free Europe said the suspect was Dmytro Malinovskiy, an Odessa-based businessman who has been wanted by police in Ukraine since 2015 in connection with a major fraud and forgery case involving defense ministry property in the Black Sea port city.

Europol said that the French authorities launched in January an investigation into alleged suspicious transactions surrounding the purchase of a “€3 million castle in the Burgundy region by a Luxembourg-based company”.

It was later established that the ultimate owner was wanted in Ukraine for alleged large-scale corruption but had managed to evade justice by producing "forged death certificates," Europol said.

The Hague-based agency said it had coordinated with French, Ukrainian and Luxembourg authorities to establish that the suspect “was not only alive but was enjoying a lavish lifestyle in France”.

Officials in Ukraine have not commented publicly on the Europol statement.

Contacted by the Telegraph, Jerôme Billard, mayor of La Rochepot, a winemaking village near Beaune, confirmed that the arrests had taken place.

He said he had met Mr Malinovskiy who had told him he was “in charge of accounts” but was not aware he was the owner of the chateau.  

“I saw one or two people I presumed were middle-men for the investment company that owned the chateau,” he said, adding that he had no idea about the Dali paintings.

He said until their arrest, he had no complaints about those who ran the chateau, a 12th-century feudal castle of neo-Gothic-Burgundian style, rebuilt in the 15th century and completely restored and covered with glazed burgundy tiles in the 19th century.

With its drawbridge and moat, the property was the scene of a mock medieval battle last year.

“What was positive was they had kept the visits going and ran a shop and bar-bar-restaurant,” said the mayor.

“The last thing we want is for it to be bought by private owners who shut it to the public. It’s vital for tourism and economic development.”

Graft remains a key political issue for Ukraine despite a 2014 revolution that ousted then-President Viktor Yanukovych and exposed massive government corruption and bribery. 

The International Monetary Fund made the creation of an anti-corruption court a condition of unlocking its $17.5 billion (£15.4bn) bailout. 

According to Bloomberg, non-residents based in Ukraine were among customers implicated in about €200 billion that flowed through the Estonian unit of Danske Bank A/S between 2007 and 2015, much of which the lender regarded as suspicious.

Ukraine was 130th with Sierra Leone and Myanmar in the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, lower than any European country except Russia.