Monaco heiress death: police eye son-in-law's bank activity

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 24, 2014 11:54 AM

MARSEILLE (Reuters) - French police investigating the shooting death last month of Monaco heiress Helene Pastor have discovered what they said were 'suspicious' transactions in the bank accounts of her son-in-law, a prosecutor said on Tuesday.

Pastor, who belonged to one of Monaco's wealthiest families, was badly wounded on May 6 when a gunman fired at her twice with a sawed-off shotgun through the window of her car while she was in the Mediterranean city of Nice.

The 77-year-old woman died from her injuries in hospital in the night of May 21. Her driver, Mohamed Darwich, 64, also succumbed to his injuries, on May 10.

Police this week detained Helene's daughter Silvia Pastor and her husband, Wojciech Janowski, a businessman and honorary Polish consul in Monaco. They were among 23 people picked up in a wave of arrests in the cities of Rennes, Nice and Marseille.

"Suspicious financial transactions have been discovered on the bank accounts of Mr. Janowski and they must be explained," Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin told journalists.

Robin said the suspected shooter, who was aided by an accomplice, arrived in Nice on May 6 and stayed in a hotel where one of them left traces of DNA on a shower gel packet. Both were filmed by surveillance cameras as they moved through the city, including as they got into a taxi to return to Marseille.

The DNA traces allowed police to identify and arrest the suspected accomplices, both of whom had criminal records, the prosecutor said.

"Also, links have been discovered (between Mr. Janowski) and two intermediaries who were in direct contact with the suspect," Robin said.

He added that Silvia Pastor, whose mother was heiress to a Monaco real estate empire, was being detained "only for the purpose of the investigation".

Asked if police believed the shooting may have been a contract killing, he said: "It's fair to think that."

"We have until Friday to establish the chain of responsibility," said Christian Sainte, who is running the judicial investigation, referring to the maximum duration suspects can be detained before being charged.

(Reporting By Gerard Bon; Writing by Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Larry King)