A French billionaire who ranks top of Europe’s wealthiest men is being investigated for alleged money laundering alongside a Russian oligarch.
74-year-old Bernard Arnault, owner of the luxury LVMH brand, is under investigation by Paris prosecutors looking into a money laundering scheme centred on the exclusive Alpine ski resort Courchevel.
Investigators are looking into the relationship between Arnault and a Russian oligarch named Nikolai Sarkisov.
Arnault is suspected of having lent the fellow billionaire some £16million as part of a complete real estate fraud that reportedly netted more than £1.7million.
The investigation is being headed by France’s financial intelligence unit and no charges have yet been filed.
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Mr Sarkisov acquired 14 apartments in 2018 under a single purchase totalling £13.8million.
The Russian oligarch reportedly used a number of companies registered in France, Luxembourg and Cyprus to conduct the deal.
While suspected of being the buyer, the 55-year-old name does not appear on the books of the company, La Fleche, through which the apartments were brought
La Fleche is suspected of having been the vehicle for a deal for three more properties sold by a second company which is also believed to be owned by Mr Sarkisov.
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French newspaper Le Monde reports that by selling the property to himself made a reported gain of over one million euros.
Mr Arnault’s involvement is alledged to have come firstly in the form of a £15.8m loan to the Russian and secondly in the suspected acquisition of La Fleche which alledgedly made the Frenchman the effective owner of the properties.
Quoting a document written by French investigators, Le Monde states the transaction could have been a ploy “to hide the exact origin of the funds”.
A spokesman for LVMH spokesman told the French Newspaper that the deal had been “carried out with the strictest observance of the law”.
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