French officials are keeping a close eye on the king of luxury.
On Friday, the Paris public prosecutor’s office revealed that Bernard Arnault’s dealings with Russian businessman Nikolai Sarkisov are being investigated for possible money laundering. The office’s research, started in 2022, is focused on transactions related to property at Cheval Blanc Courchevel, a luxury ski resort in the French Alps owned by Arnault’s LVMH conglomerate. Le Monde reported that Sarkisov purchased a series of properties there in 2018 via intermediary companies—but the end-buyer turns out to be Arnault, investigators say.
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The French billionaire is alleged to have paid Sarkisov about $21.2 million to own the assets, while the Russian businessman raked in a profit of about $2 million from their deals. These transactions worked to mask the origin of the funds and the identity of the final buyer, or Arnault. A spokesperson for the CEO reportedly declined to comment to Bloomberg, while reps for Sarkisov couldn’t be reached. Despite this, sources familiar with Arnault claim the deals were legally completed.
Sarkisov is known to control the RESO-Garantia insurance company with his brother Sergey. According to French documents, he also became the Armenian consul to the city of Lyon in 2014—which is just about two hours away from Courchevel. Sarkisov reportedly left this post in 2019, a year after his property purchase at the ski resort, according to Forbes Russia. The publication later estimated his fortune in 2021 to stand at $850 million.
Arnault, the CEO of LVMH, is widely known and respected as a shrewd businessman and reigns as the undisputed king of the luxury world. Through his conglomerate, he’s acquired a variety of globally beloved brands, most recently the American jewelry purveyor Tiffany & Co. He’s currently the second-richest man in the world, behind Elon Musk, with an estimated net worth of $164 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.