Monaco Murders Reveal Six Hidden Real Estate Billionaires

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Wojciech Janowski and Sylvia Pastor
A December 2003 file photo shows Wojciech Janowski and Sylvia Pastor in Monaco. Source: Centauro/French Select/Getty Images

On the evening of May 6, a man carrying a shotgun approached a black Lancia Voyager pulling out of a hospital parking lot in Nice, France. Raising the weapon, he fired through the front passenger window and hit Helene Pastor, the richest woman in Monaco, in the chest, neck and jaw. Another shot hit her driver, Mohamed Darwich, in the heart and abdomen.

As the gunman fled with an accomplice to Marseille, the victims were rushed to the intensive care unit at Nice’s St. Roch hospital. Darwich died four days later. Pastor told police before she died on May 21 that she had no idea who would want to attack her, French weekly L’Express said.

“There was real astonishment. She was an extremely discreet individual and the Pastor family aspired to be completely normal business people,” said Frederic Laurent, a Monaco historian. “They’re the richest family in the principality but their business affairs were perfectly normal.”

Over the next seven weeks, police pieced together phone records, closed-circuit television footage and DNA found on a soap bottle in the gunman’s hotel room. The trail led them to Wojciech Janowski, the longtime partner of Pastor’s daughter, Sylvia. His personal trainer Pascal Dauriac told police that Janowski gave him 140,000 euros ($180,000) in cash to arrange the attack, Brice Robin, the Marseille prosecutor, said at a June 27 news conference.

Family Fortune

Dauriac’s lawyer Jean-Robert Nguyen Phung, said in a phone interview that his client had implicated Janowski and confessed to a role in the crime.

“He owns up to what he did, he accepts his responsibility, his involvement and his part,” Nguyen Phung said.

Details of the attack were based on photographs of the crime scene, Robin’s press conference and two people familiar with the police investigation who asked not to be identified because the case is ongoing.

Janowski may have ordered the ambush in order to access the 77-year-old matriarch’s estate, Robin said, which is part of a family fortune valued at more than $13 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Janowski, who is being held at Marseille’s Baumettes jail, has been placed under formal investigation along with Dauriac and five other suspects, including the alleged gunman. He said he was innocent in a Sept. 22 appearance before the case’s examining magistrate, his lawyer Erick Campana said in a phone interview.

Monaco Skyline

“What Dauriac claims, namely that Janowski ordered the crime, is false,” Campana said, noting that his client wouldn’t have inherited anything because he wasn’t married to Helene Pastor’s daughter. “The motive advanced by the state prosecutor is completely illusory.”

The fortune Janowski stands accused of targeting belongs to a single branch of the Pastor family, the Monegasque clan that built much of Monaco’s skyline and owns thousands of apartments in the city-state. Helene Pastor’s two children, Sylvia and Gildo, stand to inherit at least $1.2 billion each, joining four other members of the family’s fourth generation who also have become billionaires, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. None have appeared individually on an international wealth ranking.

Calls, e-mails and hand-delivered messages to the Monaco offices of the family companies Groupe Pastor and Helene Pastor Pallanca SAM requesting comment weren’t returned. Michel Pastor Group, another family company, declined to comment, according to Isabelle de Segonzac, a spokeswoman at Paris-based Image 7 PR.

Casino Square

“It’s almost impossible to try and do anything in Monaco without coming into some kind of contact with the family,” said Max Ryerson, an entrepreneur who lived in Monaco for 12 years and ran Club 5 Thousand, an online private members club for high net worth individuals. “If you’re looking for a very nice apartment, you will need to rent from the Pastors. They’re part of life.”

The family’s influence on Monaco is visible on the five-minute drive along Larvotto Beach to Casino Square in the center of the principality, a journey dominated by high-rise apartment blocks all built and owned by the Pastors.

At one end stands the 29-story Roccabella, one of Monaco’s most exclusive residences, whose marble foyer, high ceilings and uninterrupted views of the Mediterranean has attracted tenants such as billionaire Philip Green and singer Shirley Bassey. Arrayed along the rest of the artificial beach, also built by the family, looms a continuous line of Pastor buildings erected in the 1970s and 1980s -- the Bahia, Estoril, Formentor, the Columbia and Houston Palaces, and Emilie Palace.

Reserved Right

Helene Pastor was the last surviving member of the family’s third generation and controlled closely held Helene Pastor Pallanca SAM, whose holdings include the Bahia and Emilie in the Larvotto district, the Trocadero, Continental and Schuylkill apartments, and the Gildo Pastor Center, a 430,000-square-foot (40,000-square-meter) office complex in the Fontvieille neighborhood, according to the company’s website. They’re valued at $3.7 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Gildo, 47, and Sylvia, born in 1961, are entitled to at least two-thirds of her fortune under Monaco’s Civil Code. They’re credited only with this reserved right in Bloomberg’s net worth calculation, giving each a fortune of at least $1.2 billion when the estate is distributed. No inheritance tax is levied between parents and their children in the city-state. E-mails and phone messages sent to closely held family company Helene Pastor Pallanca requesting comment weren’t returned.

Groupe Pastor

“Monaco has forced heirship rules,” Alexis Madier, an attorney at Monaco-based Gordon S. Blair Law Offices, said in phone interview. “You cannot deprive any child of their reserved shares except if you execute a will and the children accept to renounce their respective share in the estate, which can take place only after the death.”

The heirs of Helene’s two late brothers also own multibillion dollar chunks of Monaco’s skyline. The four children of Victor Pastor, who established Groupe Pastor, would have inherited at least 75 percent of his fortune when he died in 2002, according to Monaco’s Civil Code.

The properties owned by this branch of the family are valued at $5.4 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, giving each of the four Pastor siblings, Philippe, Marie-Helene, Jean-Victor, 46, and Patrice, 41, a $1 billion fortune based on their reserved share. No response was received to e-mailed and hand-delivered messages to Groupe Pastor’s office on Avenue Princesse Grace requesting comment.

Monte Carlo

The holdings identified as being controlled by Michel Pastor Group, three quarters of which would be shared by Michel Pastor’s five children after he died in March, are valued at $3.8 billion. The company declined to comment.

The family’s holdings aren’t publicly disclosed. They were derived from discussions with local real estate brokers, reports on new construction in Monaco, listings by the Pastor’s estate agencies and visits to the buildings themselves.

The family first arrived in the principality in 1880, when Jean-Baptiste Pastor, an Italian mason from Liguria began working in Monaco, according to Groupe Pastor’s website.

He founded JB Pastor & Fils in 1920, which has been responsible for many of Monaco’s largest public works projects, including building the first sports stadium in 1936. After World War II, his son Gildo bought waterfront land in Monaco’s Larvotto neighborhood, where his company was building the underground railway, one of several public projects undertaken by Prince Rainier III in a bid to revitalize the principality.

“Our grandfather was a visionary,” Delphine Pastor told L’Express in a November 2013 profile. “At the time, to the east of the Monte Carlo casino, there was nothing.”

Port Hercule

The Larvotto neighborhood became the foundation of the family’s empire after they received permission to develop the land in 1966. By adhering to a family mantra to avoid selling property, the Pastors accumulated real estate holdings that comprise more than 1,800 units, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. They could be even wealthier: L’Express estimated their holdings at 4,000 apartments.

After Gildo’s death in 1990, the empire was parceled out between his three children, Victor, Helene and Michel. Victor inherited developer JB Pastor & Fils and his younger brother received Centre Immobilier Pastor. Both the Victor and Michel branches remain active builders in the city.

Some of the family’s more recent projects stand along the cliffs overlooking Port Hercule, including Michel Pastor Group’s 45-unit Monte Carlo View and Groupe Pastor’s Simona tower, whose white, webbed facade is one of the skyline’s most visible.

Record Prices

The family’s holdings have benefited from the growth of Monaco as a destination for the super-rich. It’s the world’s most-densely populated country, with 36,950 inhabitants living in the 0.8-square-mile (two-square-kilometer) enclave in 2013, up 48 percent since 1975, according to official statistics.

“The greatest difficulty in Monaco is to optimize ground space,” Patrice Pastor is quoted as saying on JB Pastor & Fils’s website.

Even with space at a premium, the allure of Monaco remains strong for the wealthy. Most residents don’t pay personal income tax, and the principality’s location and climate continue to attract people. The total value of property sales hit a record 1.2 billion euros in 2013, according to the Monegasque Statistics and Economic Studies Institute.

Electric Carmaker

The principality’s residential values are the highest in the world, with the price of ultra-prime property in Monaco at 90,900 euros per square meter, according to a 2014 research report by broker Savills Plc.

“Monaco will become more and more popular,” said Angela Kleiber, owner of Monaco-based realtor Lorenza von Stein, citing the tax regime and location. “Monaco is so attractive, I don’t know what level prices could go up to.”

Helene Pastor’s murder has refocused attention on a family whose reach is increasingly international.

The heirs of Michel Pastor also own estate agent John Taylor and a fifth of Artcurial, a French auction house. Helene’s son Gildo, who suffered a stroke in 2014 and was being visited by his mother on the evening she was shot, according to L’Express, owns electric-car maker Venturi, which runs a Formula-E team with actor Leonardo DiCaprio as a backer.

“The younger generation have really tried to be entrepreneurial and do other things than just the property business,” said Ryerson. “It’s clear that the property funds everything they do, but hats off to people like Gildo who are trying to push for sustainability.”

Senseless Crime

Such commitments have seen the Pastors’ influence wane somewhat from their 1970s and 1980s heyday.

“Their influence is a bit less insofar as the family has been divided and that in the end they are less active as builders,” historian Laurent said. “If we take the precise case of Helene Pastor, she was a rentier and no longer did any construction activity.”

Even without the property development income enjoyed by other branches of the family, her rental income was such that she could still give each of her two children an allowance of 500,000 euros a month. According to prosecutors, that wasn’t enough for Janowski, who had run up debts of 9 million euros, French daily Le Parisien reported.

“It was hard to find a sense to this crime,” said Laurent. “That it appears to be a family matter perhaps reassures the principality.”

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