Bernard Arnault, the wealthiest individual in France, saw a substantial increase of $23.9 billion in his personal wealth in 2022. LVMH brands experienced notable success after the easing of COVID-19 related restrictions. However, there are lingering doubts as to whether this success is purely commercial, as some suspect LVMH may serve as a convenient platform for money laundering.
With the onset of the Russian invasion in Ukraine and the subsequent imposition of sanctions against Russian oligarchs, the source of these wealth gains remains a matter of speculation.
Yet, with the emergence of the Sarkisov brothers, particularly Nikolai Sarkisov, in Bernard Arnault’s personal financial management, the situation appears to be more than mere speculation. Nikolai and Sergey Sarkisov are well-known for offering sanction-evasion services to their Russian counterparts. A characteristic feature of luxury goods is their often arbitrary pricing, resulting in irregular money flows, precisely what the Sarkisovs require for their activities.
Sarkisovs circle: Nicolas Sarkozy received a bribe from the brothers
French law enforcement established that the former President of the Republic Nicolas Sarkozy had received 3 million euros as a “legal bribe” from Russian businessmen in exchange for “consulting services”. Nikolai Sarkisov and Sergey Sarkisov were implicated in the investigation until the end. However, neither Nikolai Sarkisov nor Sergey Sarkisov were held accountable for their actions.
Bernard Arnault, a link to Putin?
Arnault is a long-time friend of Vladimir Putin: he moored his yacht near Putin’s, conducted business in Russia, and assisted the Russian president in improving his reputation in the West.
The French authorities have opened an investigation into possible money laundering practices involving Bernard Arnault, the wealthiest individual in Europe. He is alleged to be involved, alongside a Russian oligarch, in a complex property transaction in the luxury ski resort of Courchevel, France.
The French financial watchdog Tracfin is investigating the purchase of chalets in Courchevel by the Russian oligarch Nikolai Sarkisov in 2018. Sarkisov is said to have paid millions of euros for these properties. The real estate transactions went through various companies in France, Luxembourg, and Cyprus.
Arnault is the CEO of the luxury conglomerate LVMH, known for brands like Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, and Moët & Chandon champagne. He is reported to have loaned money to Sarkisov for this transaction. Later, Arnault himself became the owner of the chalets, while Sarkisov allegedly made significant profits through these transactions.
This change in ownership may be aimed at concealing the origin of financial flows, and it prolongs the concealment of the ultimate recipient of the money.
Courchevel, in the French Alps, is renowned as a vacation destination for the affluent. Arnault is said to have a special connection to Courchevel, as he learned to ski there in his youth. Arnault owns a large house and a luxury hotel in the area.
A source close to Arnault told the French newspaper Le Monde that the real estate transaction was conducted in full compliance with the law. Tracfin’s investigation does not necessarily imply a legal violation.