The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has opened a criminal investigation into a tax case involving an ex-manager of French luxury group Kering, owner of the Gucci brand, following a request by Italian authorities.
The OAG confirmed to Reuters on Wednesday that it had received and carried out a request for mutual legal assistance from the public prosecutor’s office at the court of Milan. It added that it had opened its own criminal proceedings “on suspicion of, among other things, money laundering and document forgery” against “unknown persons”. Italian-speaking Swiss public radio RSI external linkhad also reported the case. Kering declined to comment.
A source told Reuters that the request from Milan referred to a former Kering manager in Italy under investigation for suspected tax evasion and did not concern a separate tax probe into the French group.
Last week, Kering announced that it had complied with its tax obligations in Switzerland, in answer to reports claiming that the group used a Swiss-based scheme to evade taxes on earnings from brands such as Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.
The French information site Mediapart external linkand Germany's Der Spiegel had alleged that Kering had saved on taxes it should have paid in countries such as Italy by billing some business carried out elsewhere to a Swiss site. Mediapart, which cited documents linked to an Italian tax investigation, said it estimated that since 2002 Kering had saved €2.5 billion ($3.1 billion) in tax in this manner. The newspapers claimed the French group benefited from a low tax rate of about 8% by billing them through the Swiss region of Ticino.
Kering defended itself in a statement sent to Reuters: “The group pays its due taxes in Switzerland, in compliance with the law and the fiscal status of the company. This business operating model is known by French and other competent tax authorities.”