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Estranged wife sues Russian billionaire over purchase of $88-million penthouse

Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev was sued by his wife over the $88-million purchase of a Central Park West penthouse in Manhattan from former Citigroup Inc. chairman Sanford Weill.

Elena Rybolovleva, who is seeking a divorce, sued her husband in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan this week.

Her lawsuit accuses him of fraudulently transferring property acquired during his marriage in violation of a Swiss court order and using the property to buy the New York penthouse “with the specific intent of hiding and diverting his personal interest in the property.”

A company associated with the billionaire’s daughter, Ekaterina Rybolovleva, signed a contract to purchase the 6,744-square-foot full-floor condominium at 15 Central Park West, Alan Basiev, a spokesman for Rybolovlev, said in December.

Ekaterina Rybolovleva, who is studying at a U.S. university, plans to stay at the apartment when visiting New York, Basiev said.

Her father, ranked number 93 on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires with a net worth of $9.5 billion, is the former owner of fertilizer maker OAO Uralkali.

Elena Rybolovleva filed for divorce in Geneva in December 2008.

The court later imposed a provisional freeze on shares and assets of Rybolovlev, including stakes in Russian companies JSC Uralkali and Silvinit, according to the complaint.

Elena Rybolovleva is asking the court to establish a trust over the property so that it “cannot be alienated, conveyed, encumbered, transferred or wasted,” pending the final determination of the Swiss court.

Basiev and Rybolovlev couldn’t be reached for comment.

The condo was listed for $88 million US.

The prior record for a Manhattan residence was the $53-million sale of a townhouse to private-equity investor J. Christopher Flowers in 2006, according to Jonathan Miller, president of New York appraiser Miller Samuel Inc.

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