Google Offices in France Raided for Tax Fraud and Money Laundering Evidence

By Denisse Moreno, Epoch Times
May 24, 2016 3:55 pm Last Updated: May 24, 2016 3:55 pm

French authorities raided Google’s Paris offices looking for evidence of tax fraud or money laundering, officials said on May 24.

Anti-corruption officials and 25 information technology experts carried out the operation, said France’s financial prosecutor’s office.

The raid happened at dawn and involved 100 investigators—authorities were still there into the afternoon.

Google allegedly owes 1.6 billion euros in taxes to the French government, according to Le Parisien.  

“These searches are the result of a preliminary investigation opened on June 16, 2015, relative to aggravated tax fraud and organized money laundering following a complaint from French fiscal authorities,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

“The investigation is aimed at finding out whether Google Ireland Ltd. is permanently established in France and if, by not declaring some of its activity on French soil, it has failed to meet its fiscal obligations, in particular with regard to corporation tax and value added tax,” said the statement.

A police car outside the Paris offices of US Internet giant Google on May 24, 2016, in Paris, as police carry out a search as part of a tax fraud investigation. French authorities believe Google owes 1,6 billion euros (USD 1,7 billion) in back taxes, a source close to the matter said in February. Google is one of several multinational corporations that have come under fire in Europe for paying extremely low taxes by shifting revenue across borders in an often complex web of financial arrangements.  AFP PHOTO / MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE / AFP / MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE        (Photo credit should read MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP/Getty Images)
A police car outside the Paris offices of US Internet giant Google on May 24, 2016, in Paris, as police carry out a search as part of a tax fraud investigation. French authorities believe Google owes 1,6 billion euros (USD 1,7 billion) in back taxes, a source close to the matter said in February. (Matthieu Alexandre/AFP/Getty Images)

The tech company responded to the raid in a statement saying, “We comply with French law and are cooperating fully with the authorities to answer their questions.”

Google and other American tech giants usually base their European subsidiaries in Ireland or other low-tax jurisdictions such as Luxembourg. The move allows them to do business with clients across Europe while minimizing their fiscal obligations, also known as profit-shifting.

European regulators have increasingly pressured firms to pay taxes in the jurisdictions they do business in. American companies like Apple and Amazon have also been called out on the issue.

Earlier this year, Google agreed to pay about $140 million in unpaid taxes. And Apple agreed to pay 318 million euros in taxes to Italy for the past several years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.