Orpea: police raids across Europe after Investigate Europe exposé

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Maxence Peigné || ""
Maxence Peigné
Leïla Miñano || ""
Leïla Miñano
7 February 2024
European police forces raided premises in six countries last month as part of a French investigation into former executives of Orpea, a private care home group whose suspicious dealings in Luxembourg were exposed by Investigate Europe in May 2022. 
The sweeping cross-border operation took place in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy and Portugal on 11 and 12 January. It is part of an official probe launched in June 2023 into charges of breach of trust, fraud, misappropriation of corporate assets, organised money laundering and corruption. Eighty-four French officers carried out searches and interrogations alongside their European counterparts. 

The public prosecutor’s office in Nanterre, a town to the west of Paris, announced the searches on 26 January. "The group is cooperating fully with the authorities," an Orpea spokesperson told journalists. No information about the exact locations of the searches has been released.

The searches at least partly relate to Lipany, a secret Luxembourg holding set-up by former Orpea directors and first revealed by IE and its media partners, a prosecutor involved in the case confirmed to Investigate Europe. Previously described as a potential “money laundering and corruption vehicle” by a source close to the inquiry, Lipany amassed nearly €100 million worth of assets, mostly properties linked to Orpea in Italy, France, Belgium and, to a lesser extent, Germany.

Lipany is officially owned by Roberto Tribuno, Orpea's former boss in Italy. Most of the holding's affiliates and activities also closely involved Sebastien Mesnard, the group's former chief financial officer.  

IE's 2022 investigation detailed how the pair used Lipany and its maze of subsidiaries for dubious transactions. In France, they covered up the payment of a secret €700,000 commission to an intermediary and recorded false tax information in the financial statements of at least 14 firms linked to Orpea projects. In Italy, they cheated VAT rules and routinely sold Orpea nursing homes to Lipany, meaning the group would then pay rents to the holding. 

In response to the investigation, Orpea admitted that some of IE's findings were part of a formal complaint against "unnamed persons" that the group lodged shortly before the article was published. The care home giant also said that it sacked Mesnard two weeks after receiving IE’s questions.

Yet further IE revelations showed that in July 2022, Orpea pledged fresh funds to its Luxembourg partner almost free of interest, in a scheme that involved Mesnard, even though he was officially fired two months before. In 2023, the nursing home operator also bought several French properties from Lipany for an undisclosed amount and gave it the supervision of two facilities in Italy. 

Both Mesnard and the group's ex-CEO, Yves Le Masne, have been in custody since the start of the probe in June 2023. A third former manager is also under investigation.

Orpea, which operates 1,000 medical facilities globally, has been in turmoil since the release in January 2022 of “Les Fossoyeurs”, a book depicting patterns of patient mistreatment within the group's homes. Authorities received dozens of complaints from patients' families for gross negligence and even manslaughter. In December 2023, the French state took a majority stake in the debt-ridden enterprise as part of a bailout involving €605 million of public funds.

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