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Alzheimer’s centre gets Leopolda cash

Court upholds billionaire must lose €39m deposit on record house sale, but the money will go to charity says owner

A NEW Alzheimer’s centre in Nice will be the biggest beneficiary after an appeal court confirmed a Russian billionaire must lose his €39 million deposit after pulling out of a record property purchase.

Banker’s widow Lily Safra has pledged €7 million of the deposit money on the Villa Leopolda in Villefranche-sur-Mer to the Institut Claude Pompidou, due to open in 2012.

The institute is expected to become a leader in Alzheimer’s research and care.

The rest of the money will go to other charities in medical or other humanitarian fields. In making the gift Mrs Safra follows in the steps of her late husband, Edmond, who was famous for his philanthropy.

With property prices reaching record levels in early 2008, “Nickel King” Mikhail Prokhorov made an offer of €390 million for one of the largest villas on the Côte d’Azur, a former home of the King of the Belgians, Leopold II.

When the economic crisis hit, however, he pulled out and sought to get his 10% deposit back through the courts.

Last year the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Nice ruled against Mr Prokhorov, a decision which has now been confirmed by the appeal court in Aix-en-Provence.

Mrs Safra said she hoped her gift would encourage other people who “are able to do it” to also support good causes, which she said was especially important in these economically uncertain times.

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