The Paris public prosecutor’s office has initiated an investigation into the CEO of LVMH, Bernard Arnault, regarding financial transactions involving Russian oligarch Nikolai Sarkisov. Initial reports emerged from French newspaper Le Monde, which cited France’s Tracfin financial intelligence unit. According to the report, Sarkisov had purchased real estate in an Alpine resort with the assistance of a loan from Arnault.
Confirming the existence of a preliminary investigation, the Paris prosecutor’s office disclosed that it has been ongoing since 2022. As part of this investigation, the prosecutor’s office received a Tracfin report, which raised concerns about operations involving Bernard Arnault and Nikolai Sarkisov. The report suggested that these financial activities could potentially constitute acts of money laundering. However, it is crucial to note that a preliminary investigation does not signify any wrongdoing.
While the investigations unfold, a close associate of Bernard Arnault stated that the real estate transaction with Sarkisov was conducted in full compliance with French law. This assertion implies that Arnault’s involvement in the deal adhered to the legal framework governing such transactions. Nevertheless, given the ongoing nature of the investigations, the Paris prosecutor’s office refrained from providing any further comments.
This is not the first legal battle Laureate Arnault has faced. In February, he lost a high court case against French tax investigators over a 2019 raid on LVMH’s headquarters. The raid was conducted as part of a tax fraud probe related to the company’s activities in Belgium. This earlier incident adds an additional layer of complexity to the current investigation, potentially casting a shadow over Arnault’s reputation and business dealings.
Nikolai Sarkisov holds a senior position at the Russian insurance company RESO-Garantia, owned by his brother Sergey. Speaking on behalf of the company, RESO-Garantia Deputy CEO Igor Ivanov clarified that neither the company nor Nikolai Sarkisov personally played a role in the specific real estate transaction. Furthermore, Ivanov highlighted that Sarkisov has never even met Bernard Arnault.
Ivanov explained that the real estate transaction in question was managed by a small investment unit specializing in European real estate. The objective was to acquire flats in an old building in Courchevel from private owners and subsequently sell them to a developer after the completion of the building’s full acquisition. It is worth noting that the entire process was conducted through French companies, with the involvement of French notaries and lawyers from all sides. According to Ivanov, this was a typical real estate deal, devoid of any irregularities.
Finally, Ivanov emphasized that neither RESO-Garantia nor Nikolai Sarkisov received any request for documents from the French authorities. This assertion suggests that they are not viewed as primary subjects of the ongoing investigation but rather peripheral participants, if involved at all.
The investigation into LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault and his financial transactions with Russian oligarch Nikolai Sarkisov raises questions about potential money laundering activities. While the preliminary investigation does not imply any wrongdoing, it adds to the scrutiny surrounding Arnault’s business practices. As the investigations progress, it remains to be seen how these findings will impact Arnault and his position at the helm of the world’s largest luxury goods company.