A French musician and his Russian lawyer were detained late on Tuesday and spent a night in a Moscow police station after a Russian pop star accused them of extorting €1 million ($1.06 million) from him in a plagiarism row.
The police sting at a Moscow bank on Tuesday evening is curiously reminiscent of the arrest of a Russian federal minister who was reportedly caught red-handed last month, receiving a bribe he is believed to have extorted from a top oil company.
Didier Marouani, a disco star who first came to tour in the Soviet Union in 1983, and his lawyer Igor Trunov were detained Tuesday evening in a bank where they said they were to sign an out-of-court settlement with Filipp Kirkorov, Russia's biggest pop star. Marouani claims one of Kirkorov's songs, "Cruel Love," contains music he wrote years before.
The flamboyant Kirkorov, who said in a recent interview that he has socialized with U.S. president-elect Donald Trump for 22 years, has been a household name since the early 1990s.
He told the LifeNews website on Tuesday there was no agreement to settle the dispute out of court and that he was "forced" to contact the police after Marouani began to extort money from him.
"I'd like to thank Russian law-enforcement officials who were defending my honor and dignity that was called into question by foreign musicians who wrongly accused me of something I didn't do," Kirkorov, who was wearing sunglasses in the middle of a Moscow night, told Russian television.
The 63-year old Marouani, who was one of the rare Western musicians to perform in the Soviet Union before perestroika, denied the accusations.
"I have been coming to Russia for 33 years," he told Russian television after he was released. "And now I'm saying for the first time that my song was stolen, and music experts agree with me."
Another of Marouani's lawyers, Lyudmila Ayvar, said in comments carried by Russian news agencies that the singer and his lawyer were released early Wednesday and they are not facing any charges.