Two business leaders were sentenced in Paris to nine months suspended prison sentence and a fine of 80,000 euros for laundering tax fraud, we learned on Wednesday (September 8th). This is the first conviction in France as part of the “Dubai Papers”, revelations about a vast system of tax evasion.
During a hearing Tuesday, the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) said that the group specializing in the trade of hygiene products tax exempted each year “3% of its turnover” thanks to the issuance of “False invoices for the benefit” front companies “Of the Hélin group”, based in the United Arab Emirates. “In total, 1.5 million euros” was tax exempt via this scheme, said the PNF prosecutor.
A good part of the proceeds of this tax exemption was then recovered by the two leaders of the group on accounts abroad, after a commission taken by Hélin. The two directors thus acknowledged having each recovered around 400,000 euros in ten years.
“Clumsy and stupid”, according to their lawyer
During their “Appearance on prior admission of guilt”, the two leaders acknowledged the facts and accepted the negotiated sentence, that is to say nine months of suspended sentence, 80,000 euros of fine each and an exemption from registration of the facts in the criminal record. The sentence was approved by the court.
Their lawyer, Me Aurélie Chazottes, admitted in court that they had been “Clumsy and stupid” to use this fraudulent system, while emphasizing the “Tax pressure suffered”. The directors of the company have, according to the PNF prosecutor, made in February 2019 “A voluntary approach to [du PNF] with a letter acknowledging all the facts of tax optimization and the provision of the complete trace of flows “. At the same time, they regularized their situation with the tax authorities with the payment of slates of around 600,000 euros each.
Following the “Dubai Papers” revelations – a leak of some 200,000 files, memos, e-mails, letters and faxes – the PNF opened a preliminary investigation on February 22, 2019 for aggravated money laundering of tax fraud. In France, The Obs had revealed, for its part, in September 2018, the “Offshore money laundering system in the United Arab Emirates” organized through the Hélin group with “Two hundred clients recruited by co-option: Russian oligarchs, athletes, wealthy people, aristocrats and French business leaders”. The weekly then underlined the role of the founder of Hélin, the Belgian prince Henri de Croÿ, in the search for clients.