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Money-laundering probe into billionaire Louis Vuitton owner Bernard Arnault and Russian oligarch


French prosecutors have launched an investigation into a billionaire who is the world’s second-richest person over his links to a Russian oligarch.

Bernard Arnault, co-founder and chief executive of luxury-goods group Louis Vuitton (LVMH), is being investigated amid allegations of money-laundering.

The Paris public prosecutor’s office says it is investigating financial transactions involving the French billionaire and businessman Nikolai Sarkisov.

Mr Arnault’s spokesperson declined to comment.

The inquiry is centred on property purchase in Courchevel, a ski resort in the French Alps known for being a playground for the ultra-rich, the prosecutors said.

Mr Sarkisov acquired property there via a transaction in which Mr Arnault, through one of his companies, had provided a loan, according to French daily paper Le Monde, citing the Tracfin financial-intelligence unit.

Tracfin, part of the French justice system focused on combating money-laundering, has yet to determine whether any crime had been committed, a source close to the investigation said.

Mr Arnault’s LVMH group owns handbag brand Louis Vuitton, Moët champagne, Hennessy cognac, the jeweller Tiffany’s and the watchmaker Tag Heuer, among many others.

His fortune is thought to be worth $164bn (£134bn), according to financial experts at Bloomberg.

Mr Sarkisov’s RESO-Garantia insurance company in Moscow could not be immediately reached for comment.

Le Monde cited a person close to Mr Arnault as saying the transaction had been carried out in full respect of French law.

In 2019, the French tycoon, who is the richest person in Europe and second-richest after Elon Musk, pledged 200 million euros (£173m) for the restoration of Notre Dame after it was devastated by fire.

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