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Belgium said to be probing LVMH boss Bernard Arnault over finances

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 November, 2013, 4:54am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 November, 2013, 12:48pm

France's richest man, Bernard Arnault, head of the luxury group LVMH, is reportedly the subject of a criminal probe over his activities in Belgium.

The probe follows a preliminary investigation opened last year into a capital increase of €2.9 billion (HK$303 billion) in LVMH's Belgian holding company Pilinvest, prosecution spokesman Jennifer Vanderputten told the Flemish-language paper De Tijd.

The transaction occurred in December 2011 at the company, which Arnault set up in Brussels in 1999. The paper said Pilinvest was holding shares of a family-owned company that indirectly owns shares in LVMH, a French company.

Prosecutors could not be reached for comment.

A lawyer for Pilinvest, Pierre Vanommeslaghe, said the investigation was the "normal" consequence of the preliminary investigation. "The company is awaiting the results of this investigation with great serenity," he added.

He said Pilinvest "has always fully respected current regulations" and noted that the company had a tax agreement with the Belgian authorities.

Arnault - the world's 10th-richest person, with a fortune estimated at US$29 billion, according to Forbes - owns an apartment in Brussels.

He provoked an outcry by seeking Belgian nationality last year. He later withdrew the request and said his frustrated efforts to acquire Belgian nationality were motivated not by tax concerns but a desire to tie up legal ownership issues so that his children would not fight over the riches he would one day leave to them.

Arnault was among several wealthy Frenchmen, including the actor Gerard Depardieu, to have stirred controversy over plans to take up other nationalities over a proposed 75 per cent super-tax - which has since been struck down as unconstitutional.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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