Arnault’s lawyer says money laundering allegations are unfounded

Allegations of possible money laundering by Bernard Arnault are “as absurd as they are unfounded,” the French billionaire’s lawyer said in a statement on Saturday.

The Paris public prosecutor’s office said on Friday it is investigating possible money laundering involving Russian businessman Nikolai Sarkisov and Arnault, the chief executive officer of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE. The investigation is related to property in the exclusive ski resort of Courchevel, according to Le Monde newspaper. 

“The operation that was carried out to enable the expansion of the Cheval Blanc hotel in Courchevel is well known and was carried out in compliance with the laws and with the support of advisors,” Jacqueline Laffont said in a statement.

Le Monde reported that Sarkisov bought a series of properties in 2018 in Courchevel through intermediary companies but the end-buyer turned out to be Arnault. The LVMH CEO is alleged to have paid Sarkisov about €20 million ($21.2 million) for the assets, while Sarkisov allegedly made a profit of around €2 million from the deals.

Investigators said the transactions appeared to mask the origin of the funds and the identity of the ultimate buyer, according to Le Monde. The Paris prosecutors’ office declined to comment on the details of the case.

“Who can seriously imagine that Mr. Bernard Arnault, who, over the past forty years, has built the leading French and European company, would engage in money laundering to expand a hotel?” Laffont said. “I don’t think anyone can fail to notice the insanity of these allegations.”  –BLOOMBERG