PARIS — Luxury titan Bernard Arnault is among the latest people to be named in the Paradise Papers, according to Le Monde on Wednesday.
In its article, the French publication alleged that France’s wealthiest man and chief of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has placed part of his holdings behind a complex of shadow companies in six different fiscal havens and contacted at least eight consulting firms to do so.
In a statement, Arnault denied any wrongdoing, saying the assets were known to fiscal authorities in France and the U.K., and accused the paper of scandalmongering.
“French newspaper Le Monde has singled out Bernard Arnault and certain investments of his to illustrate an article on the Paradise Papers, presenting them as hidden and undeclared assets that are ‘fiscally reprehensible’ and ‘at the limit of legality,’” the executive’s statement read. “This is, in fact, a journalistic attempt by the paper to create the impression of sensational news by using the pretext of Bernard Arnault’s assets. In reality, all of the assets cited in this article were acquired in complete legality and have been reported to tax authorities.”
The Paradise Papers are reams of leaked documents — more than 13.4 million — about sheltered wealth from two offshore service providers and company registries of 19 tax havens. The material was obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and analyzed by a group of journalists in 67 countries, who are part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that includes Le Monde.
The consortium began publishing the Paradise Papers on Sunday. Ninety-five news organizations are currently reporting on the subject.
According to Le Monde, Arnault has sheltered a 129-hectare property valued at 10 million pounds outside of London behind a company registered in the Channel Island of Jersey. The publication said he refused to comment on the property located in Nyn Park.
There’s also mention of a luxury yacht said to belong to Arnault, though not officially registered under his name. Rather, it’s held by a Maltese company, Sonata Yachting Ltd., which actually is owned by LVMH.
Le Monde wrote that since the 330-foot boat, called Symphony, is not in Arnault’s name, the executive is exempt from including it in filings for France’s wealth tax. The publication said that if Arnault wants to rent the yacht, he can do so from his own company, justify that it’s for commercial use and be dispensed in the future from it being taxed as a luxury holding, if the French government puts into place the fiscal structure it envisages. Further, in Malta, shadow companies do not need to file accounts.
“In particular, the property in the U.K. — described at length in the article — has, since its acquisition, been reported to both French and British tax authorities, and the French ‘ISF’ wealth tax has been paid on the property since it was purchased,” continued the statement, referring to the annual direct wealth tax on those in France having assets in excess of 1.3 million euros. “The ownership structure does not bring Bernard Arnault any tax benefits, nor does the ownership structure of the other assets mentioned in the article. At no time does the newspaper note any of this in the article, even though this was explained to the journalist who wrote it. The only purpose was an attempt at journalistic sensationalism.
“Bernard Arnault is one of the leading taxpayers in France and the LVMH Group, in which he is the main shareholder, pays more than one billion euros in French taxes annually,” the statement concluded.
Over the past three days other people whose financials affairs have been mentioned in the Paradise Papers include Queen Elizabeth II, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia.