French prosecutor probes transactions involving LVMH’s Arnault, Russian businessman

PARIS (Reuters) -The Paris public prosecutor’s office confirmed on Friday that it is investigating financial transactions involving LVMH owner Bernard Arnault and Russian businessman Nikolai Sarkisov.

It confirmed the opening of a preliminary investigation, which in France does not necessarily imply wrongdoing by those concerned, for whom the presumption of innocence applies.

Arnault’s spokesperson declined to comment. Sarkisov could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Paris public prosecutor’s office said in an emailed statement to Reuters that a preliminary investigation had been launched in 2022 and confirmed that transactions involving Arnault and Sarkisov had been attached to these. It said it would not make any further comment on the ongoing investigations.

Le Monde, citing the French finance ministry’s financial intelligence unit Tracfin, reported on Thursday that Sarkisov had acquired real estate at a luxury Alpine resort via a complex transaction in which Arnault, through one of his companies, had provided a loan.

Tracfin last year stepped up its scrutiny of financial operations involving Russian investors following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The unit declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

An unidentified Tracfin official told Le Monde the transactions involving Arnault and Sarkisov, who both acted through a complex web of legal entities, could have been aimed at concealing the origins of the funds used.

The paper also cited a person close to Arnault as saying the deal was carried out in full respect of French law.

Le Monde said the probe centred on the purchase of more than a dozen apartments in the ski resort of Courchevel, where Arnault’s luxury-to-real-estate conglomerate LVMH and related holding structures own several major properties.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel, Mimosa Spencer and Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Richard Lough, Alexander Smith and Mark Potter)