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Liana Sayadyan

France Seizes $132 Million Mansion Belonging to Businessman Samvel Karapetyan

Russian-Armenian businessman Samvel Karapetyan and Russian energy giant Gazprom are the focus of a money laundering investigation in France that has resulted in the seizure of a US$132 million mansion on the French Riviera.

A French court on February 12 ordered the impounding of the Villa Maria Irina mansion that, on paper, belongs to Karapetyan, best known as the billionaire head of Tashir Group.

French daily Le Monde said it was the French authorities' biggest haul since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 led the West to slap multiple rounds of sanctions against Moscow.

However, according to prosecutors, Karapetyan, who bought the villa in 2010, is believed to have acted in Gazprom's interests.

"There is evidence that suggests that successive acquisition plans for the villa were carried out in the name of various companies, whose indirect ownership would amount to making Gazprom the effective beneficiary," the Paris prosecutor's office said.

According to the documents analyzed by Le Monde, Karapetyan bought shares of the property owner (Maritime Villa Holding SNC) from Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Neft thanks to a 115-million-euro loan provided by Gazprombank that belongs to Gazprom and Vladimir Putin's close friend Yuri Kovalchuk.

Le Monde writes that all involved in the transaction are linked to the state-owned Russian company Gazprom.

Money laundering and concealing the real beneficiary in France is punishable by ten years in prison and the final confiscation of the property, if the owner does not justify the financial and legal arrangements.

The property may be confiscated and put up for auction if Karapetyan is found guilty of involvement in a scheme with Gazprom to avoid sanctions imposed nby the West following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

JUNALCO, France’s national anti-organized crime unit, has targeted Russian oligarchs who hold assets and properties in the country.

A recent Le Monde investigation revealed that senior Gazprombank executives held, sometimes secretly, real estate in France that they sold without notice after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Photo: Google Maps

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