World’s top luxury group LVMH head Bernard Arnault presents the group’s annual results 2022 in Paris on January 26, 2023.
Stefano Rellandini | AFP | Getty Images
Billionaire LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault has hit back at allegations of money laundering, after the Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed it is investigating financial transactions between Arnault and Russian oligarch Nikolai Sarkisov.
The prosecutor’s office confirmed Friday that a preliminary investigation had been underway since 2022 and that a report from France’s Tracfin financial intelligence unit relating to an Alpine real estate purchase by Sarkisov and “likely to characterize acts of money laundering” had been brought to its attention.
Spokespeople for both Arnault, the CEO and chairman of the world’s largest luxury goods company and Europe’s richest man, and Sarkisov, a senior executive at Russian insurance company RESO-Garantia, have vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
A preliminary investigation does not suggest a crime has been committed. In a statement, Arnault’s attorney, Jacqueline Laffont, said the allegations were “absurd and unfounded.”
“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. The investigation, seemingly under way, will demonstrate these facts,” she said in an emailed statement over the weekend.
“Furthermore, who could seriously imagine that Bernard Arnault, who has developed over the past 40 years the leading French and European company, would pursue money laundering to expand a hotel? I believe the senseless nature of these allegations will be recognized by all.”
French newspaper Le Monde reported Thursday, citing Tracfin, that Sarkisov acquired property in the French ski resort of Courchevel using a loan from one of Arnault’s companies.
RESO-Garantia Deputy CEO Igor Ivanov told CNBC on Friday that neither the company, nor Nikolai Sarkisov personally, had been involved in the transaction, and that Sarkisov and Arnault had never met.
“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,” Ivanov said 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.”
Correction: Jacqueline Laffont is Arnault’s attorney. An earlier version misspelled her name.