French court sentences man to 18 years for burning alive pregnant teenager

A court in France sentenced a man to 18 years in prison on Friday for stabbing and then burning alive his 15-year-old girlfriend.

Shaina's elder brother Yasin Hansye arrives for the trial of the alleged murderer of Shaina, at the Juvenile Assize Court of Beauvais, northern France
Shaina's elder brother Yasin Hansye arrives for the trial of the man accused of murdering Shaina, at the Juvenile Assize Court of Beauvais, northern France, on June 5, 2023. The accused was sentenced to 18 years in prison. François NASCIMBENI / AFP

The 2019 killing of the secondary school pupil, identified in court only as Shaina, revived outrage in France over the number of women who die at the hands of intimate partners.

The court was told that the accused, a 17-year-old high scool student at the time, had lured Shaina to a shed in the town of Creil north of Paris to kill her and burn her body.

Post-mortem forensic examination revealed “multiple wounds” inflicted by a knife, but also that Shaina was still breathing at the start of the fire.

According to public prosecutor Loic Abrial, the crime was “premeditated at every stage.”

He had sought a tougher, 20 or 30-year sentence, but the court took the accused’s status as a minor into consideration.

In response, Shaina’s brother, Yasin, cried angrily.

“18 years! That’s justice in France,” he shouted at the special juvenile court in Oise, and had a tense exchange with the accused before collapsing and being taken to hospital.

Restrictions prevent the media from identifying the accused, who has staunchly maintained his innocence.

“Why, why?” he said in reaction to the verdict, following four-hour deliberations.

“You’re wrong, I’m innocent.”

Defence lawyer Elise Arfi said it was “too early” to comment on the possibility of an appeal.

The case made waves in France where a woman is murdered by her partner or former partner every three days, according to official figures.

Shaina’s murder was particularly shocking, not only because of her young age, but also because two years earlier she had been the victim of sexual assault, for which four other young people were given suspended sentences ranging from six months to two years in prison.

Graphic images of her assault had been posted online with the aim, according to lawyers, of showing Shaina as a person “who they can sleep with but also get rid of”.

Described by her mother as “funny and smiling”, Shaina was probably in the early stages of pregnancy at the time of her murder, according to investigators.

The day before she was killed, she had gone out after a family dinner. In her handbag relatives had found a positive pregnancy test.

She attributed paternity to the accused, with whom she had had a relationship.

The prosecution maintained the accused had been “ready to destroy everything to save his image,” and avoid the disapproval of his parents.

He could “be out in eight years” between pre-trial detention and sentence reductions, Shaina’s family’s lawyer, Negar Haeri, predicted.

“Justice doesn’t care about violence against women,” she said.

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French billionaire Bernard Arnault probed over Courchevel money laundering

French billionaire Bernard Arnault and Russian oligarch Nikolai Sarkisov are under investigation for alleged money laundering at a luxury Alpine resort, according to Paris prosecutors.

French billionaire Bernard Arnault probed over Courchevel money laundering

The probe concerns their activities in Courchevel, a ski resort in the French Alps known for being a playground for the ultra-rich, they said late on Thursday.

The French economy ministry’s financial intelligence unit is leading the investigation, but has yet to determine whether any crime had been committed, a source close to the investigation told AFP.

French daily Le Monde, citing the Tracfin financial intelligence unit, reported that the 55-year old Russian billionaire had acquired 14 housing units from a single seller in 2018 for €16 million in a complex deal involving companies based in France, Luxembourg and Cyprus.

Although he is believed to be the buyer, Sarkisov’s name appears nowhere on the books of the company carrying out the purchase.

The company, called La Fleche, is believed to have bought three more real estate units from a second company which, it turns out, also belonged to Sarkisov.

The sale of the real estate to himself allowed the Russian to pocket a capital gain of €1.2 million, according to the paper.

Arnault — who runs luxury empire LVMH and is the world’s second-richest person after Elon Musk according to Forbes — is suspected of lending €18.3 million euros to Sarkisov for the deal.

He is then believed to have acquired La Fleche, effectively becoming the owner of the real estate portfolio.

The ownership change could have been designed “to hide the exact origin of the funds”, Le Monde quoted a Tracfin document as saying, as well as the identity of the “ultimate beneficiary”.

Investigators believe Sarkisov made two million euros from the operation, but they were still in the dark how much he had paid for the loan.

Contacted by AFP, LVMH declined to comment.

Le Monde, however, quoted a spokesman as saying that the operation had been “carried out with the strictest observance of the law”.

The paper also cited people close to Sarkisov as saying that the capital gain was “just a few hundred of thousands of euros”, and that the Russian had not been involved personally.

Le Monde said that according to “family lore”, Arnault has a special connection to Courchevel because he learned to ski there as a child and where he owns a mansion and a luxury hotel.

Hotel prices in the resort can reach several tens of thousands of euros per night, the paper noted.