(Bloomberg) -- Authorities in Paris said they’re investigating real-estate agents along the French Riviera to verify whether they complied correctly with sanctions targeting some of their rich Russian clients.
The French Economy Ministry’s fraud office said on Thursday that it carried out in September an “operation of targeted investigations” focusing on estate agencies in the Alpes-Maritimes — a French département that includes the exclusive peninsula of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Cap d’Antibes’ “Billionaire Bay.”
The fraud office says that 60% of the agencies they audited were either unaware of their obligations with regard to sanctions, or didn’t carry them out. Among the breaches, it highlighted that some estate agents failed to verify whether the names of their clients were on the country’s asset freeze registry or didn’t act hastily to implement the sanctions.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the involvement of realtors in implementing sanctions is key to the success of asset freeze measures.
“It’s an indispensable condition to hampering the funding of illegal activities, in particular in the context of the conflict in Ukraine,” he said in the statement. The DGCCRF “will pay close attention” to the sector’s compliance.
The fraud watchdog added that it’s currently making reports to France’s treasury arm and anti-money laundering body Tracfin to warn them about suspicions of sanctions evasion its officials encountered during the audits. Further audits will be carried out by DGCCRF.
Over the past decades, now-sanctioned Russians have snapped some of the most exclusive real-estate on the French Riviera. Roman Abramovich bought the Château de la Croë on the Cap d’Antibes in the early 2000s. Out in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Alexander Ponomarenko has a direct view of the Mediterranean sea from his home, Villa La Chabanne.
Read more: The Villas That Russians Have Bought on France’s Billionaire Bay
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