PARIS — Nicolas Bazire, a close adviser of French luxury magnate Bernard Arnault, has been sentenced to five years in jail, with two years suspended, for his involvement in a system of kickbacks on arms deals with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in the Nineties, French media reported on Monday.
Bazire has been managing director of Groupe Arnault, the Arnault family’s holding company, since 1999. He is also head of development and acquisitions at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and a member of the LVMH executive committee and board of directors.
He is one of six officials sentenced to jail by the Paris Criminal Court as part of the sprawling investigation into the so-called Karachi Affair, French news agency AFP reported. Bazire is the former campaign manager of French politician Edouard Balladur, who is accused of having used illegal kickbacks to finance his unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1995.
LVMH declined to comment on Bazire’s sentence, which includes a fine of 300,000 euros, according to AFP. His lawyer, Frédéric Landon, was not available to comment, but a source close to Bazire said he immediately appealed the court’s ruling.
Bazire was placed under investigation in 2011 for complicity in the misuse of company assets. He denied any involvement in the kickbacks scheme.
The executive, who keeps a low public profile, is familiar with the highest spheres of French politics. Close to former President Nicolas Sarkozy, he was a witness to the French politician’s wedding to model-turned-singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in 2008.
Cool and analytical, Bazire is reputed to be skilled at tough negotiations. He was instrumental to many of Arnault’s deals, including his acquisitions of a sizable stake in French retailer Carrefour, and the purchase of financial daily Les Echos, both in 2007.
The executive has also held a series of senior roles at a variety of French companies. He sits on the boards of French retailer Carrefour and information technology service and consulting company Atos.