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Russian tycoon drops theft case against chauffeur

Evgeny Klyucharev pictured outside court

A Russian tycoon and his socialite wife dropped a theft claim against their chauffeur when they realised the businessman’s seedy life of prostitutes and drug abuse would be exposed.

Evgeny Klyucharev and Veronica Chou – a close friend of Princess Beatrice and the Duchess of York – accused the driver of stealing an irreplaceable £167,000 diamond ring.

However, under questioning, the man told police he was selling the gem on behalf of Mr Klyucharev, suggesting it was needed to raise quick cash.

He accused his boss of racking up bills on call girls and the party drug GHB.

In court, Mr Klyucharev told a judge it was ‘normal in his circles’ to use £5,000-a-night prostitutes and his wife – now a mother to young twins – knew about it.

But when the couple, who have homes in London, New York and Hong Kong, realised their private affairs would be raked over in public they abandoned the case and jetted off overseas.

The claims will be an embarrassment to 32-year-old Miss Chou, who is also a friend of Ivanka Trump. Once named one of Asia’s most powerful businesswomen to watch, Miss Chou is the daughter of textiles billionaire Silas Chou.

Chauffeur Irfan Zayee was due to go on trial last week accused of stealing the diamond ring and selling it to a jeweller in Finchley, north London, in March 2016.

During three days of legal argument, a judge was told the 6.29-carat graded emerald cut diamond was sold before turning up in New York. Thanks to its unique character, experts saw it had been flagged as stolen and it was returned to the Chou family in May.

Mr Klyucharev's wife Veronica Chou with her close friend Princess Beatrice

Mr Klyucharev’s wife Veronica Chou with her close friend Princess Beatrice

Blackfriars Crown Court heard Mr Zayee was charged with theft and fraud but would make counter claims against his employers of 23 years in his defence, including evidence of Mr Klyucharev regularly using escorts and party drugs such as GHB, known as liquid ecstasy.

It was claimed his wife was concerned at him driving and playing with their children while under the influence of drugs. Mr Zayee’s barrister, Dominic D’Souza, said there were 130 pages of phone messages demonstrating how Mr Klyucharev would ask his chauffeur to order sex workers. Some date back to 2014 and others included concerns from Miss Chou about her husband’s behaviour.

Mr D’Souza said Mr Klyucharev’s sexual activities were so prolific ‘it may very well be he’s had so many prostitutes he’s forgotten who’s who’. ‘There are videos of Mr Klyucharev in various stages of GHB intoxication,’ he added. ‘They are salacious and embarrassing … He should see these messages and videos and reconsider what he says. He says in his social circles it’s acceptable to do this.’

Mr Klyucharev, founder of Key Asset Holdings and chief executive of Red Wings Airlines, was summoned to confirm the texts and video footage were genuine.

Texts: Chauffeur Irfan Zayee

Texts: Chauffeur Irfan Zayee

The businessman, who lives in Knightsbridge, west London, admitted it was all true.

Judge Sally Cahill QC said: ‘His statement suggests it is normal in his circles to have relationships with other women, none of it would come as a surprise to his wife and he accepts he regularly uses the services of escorts with the knowledge of his wife and obtained these services with the help of your client [Mr Zayee].’

But when the couple were told the information would form part of the trial they withdrew their witness statements.

Prosecutors then offered no evidence allowing Mr Zayee to walk free from court.

Genevieve Reed, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: ‘There has been a change of heart from the complainants in light of the material … I confirm [Mr Klyucharev] accepts it is him in the videos and who sent the messages.’

The couple were not in court to hear the case collapse as they left to take a private jet to Texas. Mr Zayee said: ‘My only comment is thank God for my barrister.’