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France

Michelin, Total, Adidas face money-laundering probe

©

Video by FRANCE 2 , Louis MASSIE

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-03-31

Tyre maker Michelin, oil firm Total and sports firm Adidas are suspected of evading French taxes via accounts in the Alpine principality of Liechtenstein, French prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Paris – Multinational giants Michelin, Adidas and Total subsidiary Elf are in the firing line for tax fraud and money laundering, French daily Le Parisien reported on Tuesday.

 

The three firms are suspected of depositing cash in bank accounts in Liechtenstein, famous as a tax haven.

 

French authorities say the money was earned through business dealings in France and is therefore liable for French taxes. The preliminary enquiry gets underway later this week.

 

“There were three cases which went beyond the control of tax authorities, I have passed the dossiers to the French judiciary,” French Budget Minister Eric Woerth told French television LCI on Tuesday. However, he refused to name the three companies.

 

France's finance ministry has been investigating 64 family-owned firms in connection with the scandal, of which 16 have since come clean and paid their overdue taxes and penalties, Woerth said.

 

The tax evasion fraud was exposed in 2008, when Heinrich Kieber, an employee of the LGT bank in capital Vaduz, sent a DVD with a list of his clients to the German secret service.

 

All three firms denied being under investigation for money-laundering.

 

French oil giant Total and tyre manufacturer Michelin formally denied holding banks account with LGT on Tuesday.

 

"The Michelin group does not own a Copa foundation, nor does it hold any accounts at the LGT bank in Liechtenstein," a spokesman for the firm told AFP.

 

G20 leaders meeting in London this week, plan to draw up an international blacklist of tax havens in a bid to clamp down on uncooperative nations and territories.



Bowing to international pressure, Liechtenstein agreed earlier this month to ease its strict banking secrecy rules and cooperate with foreign governments to combat tax fraud.

Date created : 2009-03-31

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