PARIS (Reuters) – France’s tax investigators on Wednesday won a case against luxury giant LVMH when the country’s highest court ruled that an earlier decision stating it was illegal to raid the firm’s headquarters in 2019 must be re-examined.
The ruling deals a blow to Bernard Arnault, the company’s chairman and CEO, and the world’s richest man, who had attacked the initial decision by a judge to allow investigators to search several company offices in 2019 amid a tax fraud probe linked to activities in Belgium.
Investigators launched the probe arguing LVMH could have tried to avoid taxes by claiming it carried out some operations in Belgium rather than France.
A lower court ruled that the searches were unlawful as prosecutors had not delivered sufficient evidence the company had breached tax rules based on the number of employees working in the Belgian unit.
But the Cour de Cassation on Wednesday said it was sufficient that there were “presumptions” of such activity and overturned the ruling.
LVMH said in an emailed statement that it would acknowledge the decision “which concerns purely procedural issues and European law” and now returns the matter of the legality of the searches back to the lower court.
“These activities carried out in Belgium are well known to the French tax authorities and have already been audited on numerous occasions since their creation in 2009,” the company added.
(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)
FILE PHOTO: Bernard Arnault, Chairman and CEO of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, speaks during a news conference to present the 2022 annual results of LVMH in Paris, January 26, 2023. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes