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Tax fraud Ricci heiress avoids jail in conviction

A model shown in a design for a Nina Ricci collection

(Keystone)

A French appeals court has ruled that the heiress to the estate of fashion designer Nina Ricci will not serve jail time for her tax fraud conviction. Her trial was prompted by the leaked lists of people who used the services of HSBC bank in Switzerland. 

The court handed Arlette Ricci, 76, a three-year suspended sentence and confirmed a €1 million ($1.1 million) fine and the confiscation of two properties.

Ricci was originally handed a three-year prison sentence, two years of which were suspended, in April 2015 for hiding in Switzerland more than €17 million from tax authorities for over two decades. She appealed the sentence last December.

The appeals court on Friday confirmed the conviction but said the sentence of "three years' imprisonment is fully suspended". The heiress did not attend the hearing for “health reasons”.

The original sentence in 2015 was considered exceptionally tough in France, where tax fraud is typically punished by fines and recovery of claimed sums, but hardly ever by jail.

The Nina Ricci fashion house, founded in 1932 in Paris, is known for its luxury perfumes – especially the floral classic L'Air du Temps.

SwissLeaks

The case against Arlette Ricci began after revelations that the Swiss private banking unit of British giant HSBC had helped clients hide billions from the taxman, in what became known as the SwissLeaks scandal.

In all, 3,000 names were leaked to French authorities by a former HSBC private bank Geneva employee, Hervé Falciani. Last year, Falciani, who fled to France and is protected from extradition by his French citizenship, was sentenced in absentia by a Swiss court to a five-year jail term for breaking Swiss banking secrecy laws and economic espionage.

Falciani said the verdict was politically motivated and he has refused to enter Switzerland to serve his term.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/ilj

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