Police Raid on French Dairy Giant
French authorities conducted a search of Lactalis, a leading dairy company, on Tuesday, amidst allegations of tax fraud. The operation, led by the French National Fiscal Offenses Repression Brigade (BNRDF), targeted the company’s headquarters in Laval and other locations. This move is part of a broader investigation by the French National Prosecutor’s Office into claims that Lactalis has been evading taxes by shifting profits to subsidiaries in Belgium and Luxembourg.
The Allegations Unfold
Reports from Le Monde highlight that the investigation centers on accusations of Lactalis transferring profits to minimize its tax liabilities in France. The period under scrutiny spans from 2009 to 2020, with the alleged tax evasion amounting to several hundred million euros. The probe was initiated following a series of reports and complaints, including a significant report from the farm union Confederation Paysanne in 2019 and tax denunciations in 2022.
Lactalis has acknowledged the searches, stating they pertain to “old events already reviewed by authorities”. The company emphasized that the operations were conducted smoothly and are part of an ongoing inquiry into allegations from years past. Despite the legal challenges, Lactalis, a privately-owned entity claiming the title of the world’s largest dairy business, reported revenues of €28.3 billion in 2022.
The inquiry into Lactalis’s financial activities began in 2018 with suspicions of laundering charges related to aggravated tax fraud. It expanded to include aggravated tax fraud after receiving additional reports and tax denunciations. The investigation aims to determine the extent of the alleged fraud and the precise amount of duties evaded.
The searches at Lactalis’s premises come at a time of heightened social tensions in France, marked by protests from the farming community demanding fair prices and reduced bureaucracy. However, authorities have clarified that the timing of the raids is unrelated to these protests, being part of a long-planned operation. The case against Lactalis highlights ongoing concerns over corporate tax practices and their impact on national economies.