The "star" the country could do without

By Audrey SomnardLex Kleren Switch to French for original article

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The new year is a fitting opportunity to look back on the last twelve months. For the Journal team, this means reflecting on more than 600 published articles and podcasts, as well as at least three times as many conducted interviews. Each team member has selected the contribution that has marked them the most in 2023.

It was while following the international press that I became particularly interested in a case this year – after all, it's not every day that a Luxembourger makes the headlines in the foreign media.

Marc Godart, a young businessman at the head of a family real estate empire, was the subject of a series of articles in the Irish press. He illegally and sometimes brutally evicted tenants from his buildings, turning them into short-term rentals. This happened in Dublin, a capital suffering from an acute property crisis, and which took action against this type of rental.

After discussing the matter among the Journal's editorial team, we decided that without new information, it would be difficult to write an article. But the idea of contacting an Irish Times editor was set. Local journalists are very familiar with the case, so Olivia Kelly accepted my offer of an audio interview by videoconference. She reminded us of what's at stake in this case, which is gripping the Irish media. She told us that this is not only the first time her newspaper has investigated the actions of a Luxembourger, which is not hard to believe given the size of our country, but that it is also the first time she has investigated someone who owns such a large property portfolio in the Irish capital.

The audio interview was published on our website last April. A few weeks later, one of Mr. Godart's victims, an aggrieved former tenant who won a court case but is still waiting for the landlord to pay his fine, contacted us. She was willing to testify and put us in touch with other victims. That's the new element! In the meantime, we have dug deeper, thanks to the Register of Beneficial Owners (RBE), to better understand the ramifications of the Godart empire managed by Marc, his parents and a few close friends. These complex financial implications required the help of Luxembourg and Irish lawyers, as well as a professor of law at Trinity College University, to better understand what was at stake in this international affair. On the Luxembourg side, people are astonished by Mr. Godart's actions: landlords can't evict tenants by force, which is "unheard of" in Luxembourg, says Me Tomas Sackler.

"On the Luxembourg side, people are astonished by Mr. Godart's actions: landlords can't evict tenants by force, which is 'unheard of' in Luxembourg."

The victims, Lizet and Francesca, have suffered serious personal consequences as a result of their dealings with their landlord. Having the right on their side, they hope one day to get their money back. But nothing is simple in this case. The international aspect, with properties in Ireland but companies based in Luxembourg at the Godart parents' home, makes it difficult for the Irish justice system to track down the ruthless owner. The latter simply ignores the letters sent by the victims' lawyers. For relatively small sums – we're only talking about several thousand or even hundred euros for each victim – the legal fees may be higher than the sums claimed.

It was this injustice that struck me the most this year, this feeling of omnipotence on the part of dishonest people, pursued by the law but who for a time manage to get away with it thanks to complex financial arrangements. It's a fascinating journalistic soap opera, but the poignant testimonies of the victims make it all the more moving.