Noted French art collector Bernard Arnault, the chairman and CEO of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury goods conglomerate, has refuted allegations that he is involved in a money laundering scheme alongside Russian oligarch Nikolai Sarkisov. According toLe Monde, the French prosecutor’s office in 2022 opened a preliminary investigation into transactions between the pair after Tracfin, France’s financial intelligence unit, flagged an Alpine real estate purchase by Sarkisov as “likely to characterize acts of money laundering.” Neither man is considered a suspect, or has been accused of wrongdoing. The acquisition that sparked the inquiry is that of several properties in Courchevel, a ski resort in the French Alps, where LVMH owns the Hotel Cheval Blanc.
The Tracfin report is said to have revealed that the purchases were made in the fall of 2018 by SNC La Fleche, a company reportedly owned by holding companies bearing Sarkisov’s name, with €18.3 million ($19.3 million) loaned to Sarkisov by Arnault through a private holding company. LVMH acquired SNC La Fleche in December of 2018.RelatedHELEN FRANKENTHALER FOUNDATION SUED FOR “DESTROYING” PAINTER’S LEGACYBMA CREATES PAID INTERNSHIPS HONORING VALERIE MAYNARD “The transaction that allowed for the expansion of the Hotel Cheval Blanc in Courchevel is perfectly known and was conducted in accordance with the law and with legal support,” Jacqueline Laffont, an attorney for Arnault, said in a statement. “The investigation, seemingly under way, will demonstrate these facts.” “Furthermore,” she continued, “who could seriously imagine that Bernard Arnault, who has developed over the past forty years the leading French and European company, would pursue money laundering to expand a hotel?” Arnault is the world’s second-richest person, behind Elon Musk, according to theBloomberg Billionaires Index.
Igor Ivanov, deputy CEO of RESO-Garantia, the insurance company where Sarkisov is a senior executive,told CNBCthat Sarkisov and Arnault had never met in person, and that neither Sarkisov nor the insurer was involved in the purchase. “The transaction was managed by a small investment unit which invests professionally in European real estate. It consisted of acquiring flats in an old building in Courchevel from various private owners, with the view to sell them later to a developer once the entire building was bought out,” he wrote in an email.
“All transactions were carried out by French companies, through French notaries by French lawyers on all sides. This was a usual real estate deal.”.