French fraudster Eric Arnoux (50) has defrauded several investors with a property development in the Swiss ski resort Grimentz where he sold upmarket real estate off plan and planned to build a spa hotel. The CHF350m development was never finished, and the local council in the picturesque resort is left with fighting Eric Arnoux through courts. Arnoux’s victims have little prospect of recovering their investments, in many cases life savings, because he is hiding behind a complex web of companies.
Eric Arnoux has played this game many times before. In his native France he has left a trail of at least two dozen bankrupt companies, all empty shells after he spent the funding raised for property developments on his luxury taste. While creditors had to suffer a total of €30m in losses, he drove to the poshest restaurants in his Ferraris from his homes in Geneva, Dubai and Miami. Debt collectors have now followed his trail to the gate of his property in Switzerland, where the noose is tightening.
According to renowned Swiss newspaper Tribune de Genève, the Swiss public prosecution has now launched multiple criminal proceedings against Eric Arnoux. Prosecutor Josepha Wohnrau made her name when only last year she charged Ukrainian MP Stanislav Berezkin and his two children with fraud and mismanagement of two Swiss-registered bankrupt companies.
According to the Tribune de Genève, Wohnrau is investigating Arnoux for tax evasion, fraudulent bankruptcy, mismanagement, security forgery and so on – a 150-page list of complaints one source described to the newspaper as a nebula of companies “worthy of the biggest crooks”.
He is also described as dangerous: a separate court case has been filed, which alleges Arnoux used aggressive intimidation tactics against creditors. A close associate filed the complaint after Arnoux asked him to hire hitmen.
Arnoux’s trick is that of many successful crooks: he oozes charm and confidence. One source told the Tribune de Genève: “The idea was to lure wealthy people with over-valued and over-indebted goods, which he could not sell anymore, by making them appear juicy.” He would sell them shares in a Luxembourg-based property fund, which was declared bankrupt in 2014.
The 50-year-old has recently moved to London. The British capital has long attracted shady characters from Europe, Russia and the Middle East. The relaxed British laws on foreign property ownership and transactions will have lured Arnoux in.
How keen Brits are on keeping Arnoux after Brexit remains to be seen – a criminal conviction in Switzerland would make his case for a British passport difficult. Arnoux and his company M/Y PURE also ran afoul of the law in the US, where he developed luxury properties in Miami.
According to the Tribune de Genève a major bank filed the complaint after Arnoux failed to repay a €6.5m loan. The newspaper reports that one of his companies used the money to buy a yacht that sails under the Maltese flag – yet another tax haven and seat of one of his bankrupt shell companies, Pure Malte Limited.
Erix Arnoux is on the radar of several prosecutors. He denies all charges. The British public prosecutor will no doubt be following the proceedings against London’s new resident with interest.