French billionaire Bernard Arnault and Russian oligarch Nikolai Sarkisov are under investigation for alleged money laundering at a luxury Alpine resort. According to an AFP report, the investigation revolves around activities in Courchevel, a popular French Alps ski spot for the super-wealthy. The French economy ministry’s financial team is spearheading the probe, but it’s still unclear if any wrongdoing occurred, an insider informed AFP.
Le Monde, referencing the Tracfin financial unit, highlighted that the Russian billionaire, aged 55, bought 14 properties in 2018 for 16 million euros ($17 million currently) through a layered transaction involving firms from France, Luxembourg, and Cyprus. Interestingly, Sarkisov’s name isn’t listed in the purchasing company’s records. The company, named La Fleche, reportedly bought three more properties from another firm, which also seems to be linked to Sarkisov.
This self-sale let the Russian gain an extra €1.2 million, the report suggests. Arnault, the head of LVMH and the world’s second wealthiest individual after Elon Musk, is thought to have loaned Sarkisov 18.3 million euros for this deal. Later, he might have taken over La Fleche, essentially owning the property collection. This shift in ownership might have been a strategy “to obscure the true source of the money,” as per a Tracfin report, and to hide the real beneficiary. It’s estimated that Sarkisov profited by two million euros, but the exact loan amount remains unknown.
When AFP reached out, LVMH chose not to comment. However, Le Monde quoted a representative stating that everything was done legally. Sources close to Sarkisov mentioned the profit was merely in the hundreds of thousands, and he wasn’t directly involved. Le Monde added that Arnault has a personal tie to Courchevel, having learned skiing there and owning significant properties. The resort’s hotel rates can skyrocket to tens of thousands per night, as noted by the publication.