Luxury Villas, Shell Companies And Fiscal Fraud: French Political Power Couple Go On Trial

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A political power couple – mayor and deputy mayor of a wealthy town west of Paris – go on trial Monday on suspicion of hiding more than 13 million euros of ill-gotten assets, including two luxury villas, from the French state.

A Paris court will spend six weeks wading into the financial morass – shell companies in Panama and the Seychelles, bank accounts in Lichtenstein and Singapore, and Swiss trustees and loyal front men – that investigators say the couple used to hide over 13 million euros in assets.

The investigation into Patrick and Isabelle Balkany Les Républicains mayor and deputy mayor of Levallois-Perret, a wealthy town west of Paris began in 2013 after another corruption investigation into a former political ally turned up evidence of the couple’s financial manoeuvres

Two luxury properties are central to the investigation.

The first, the Pamplemousse villa on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, was acquired by a Swiss trust in 1997. The couple initially denied owning the property, but Isabelle Balkany, 71, has now acknowledged that she bought it with an undeclared inheritance.

The second property, the Dar Gyucy Villa in Marrakech, is held by a Moroccan trust operated by Panamean company Hayridge, which is in the name of the couple’s right-hand man, Jean-Pierre Aubry.

The Balkanys denied that they are the real owners despite their regular visits. But they were found to be the “sole beneficiaries” of the home, where investigators found bathrobes embroidered with their initials.

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