PARIS — Google’s headquarters in the French capital were raided by police Tuesday in a preliminary federal investigation into alleged tax fraud.
The probe was confirmed to Variety by the financial division of France’s justice department, which said it conducted the search of Google’s Paris office along with officers from the anti-corruption and tax fraud unit (OCLCIFF) and 25 computer experts.
The financial division said the preliminary federal investigation into possible aggravated tax fraud and organized money laundering was launched on June 16 last year. It follows a lawsuit filed by France’s tax administration.
Google has come under even heavier scrutiny since February, after news broke of the scale of its Dublin headquarters’ financial operations. Reports indicated that Google’s Irish office – which employs more than 2,200 people and serves as headquarters for Europe, the Middle East and Africa — reportedly covered up transactions worth 28.7 billion euros ($32 billion) over three years, as part of a scheme to cut its tax bill.
The financial division of France’s justice department said in a statement today that the probe aimed to “verify whether the company Google Ireland Ltd. has a permanent base in France….and verify whether — since Google hasn’t declared part of its business done in France — [the company] failed to fulfill its tax obligations, such as corporate and value-added taxes.”
Back in February, Google was asked to pay 1.6 billion euros ($1.78 billion) in back taxes to the French government.
Google has been on the radar of French authorities for more than five years. The company’s Paris office was already raided in 2011 by tax officers as part of an investigation into the company’s transfer-pricing assessments between the French division of Google and its holding in Ireland.
Michel Sapin, France’s finance minister, said in January that Google would not get away with a deal like the one it struck with authorities in Britain, where it agreed to pay £130 million ($190 million) to cover back taxes for the last 10 years. The deal was deemed disproportionately small by a wide range of high-level British figures.