US property tycoon released from French jail

A French appeals court Wednesday ordered the release of US real estate magnate Michael Mastro and his wife, detained since October for feigned bankruptcy, but placed them under house arrest.

The court in Chambéry in southeastern France also put them under electronic surveillance for a six-month period, which it said could be extended.

Mastro, 87, and his 63-year-old wife Linda were detained in October in Annecy in the French Alps following an international arrest warrant.   

The Seattle-based Mastro had a $2-billion empire that fell apart after the real-estate crash. He declared bankruptcy and claimed more than $250 million in debts.

The couple are accused of trying to hide their assets from creditors, according to the Seattle Times.

They moved out of their lavish California mansion and fled in June 2011 after a judge ordered them to hand over two massive diamond rings belonging to Linda Mastro and costing more than $1 million (€770,000) each.

"My aim was to get them out of prison before Christmas," their lawyer Thomas Terrier said. "I'm very happy."

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Trump orders investigation into France’s planned tax on tech giants

US President Donald Trump has ordered an investigation into France's planned tax on internet services that will hit American tech giants especially hard, officials said Wednesday.

Trump orders investigation into France's planned tax on tech giants
Photo: AFP
The investigation into unfair trade practices could pave the way for Washington to impose punitive tariffs, something Trump has done repeatedly since taking office.
“The United States is very concerned that the digital services tax which is expected to pass the French Senate tomorrow unfairly targets American companies,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.
The proposed three percent tax on total annual revenues of companies providing services to French consumers only applies to the largest tech companies, “where US firms are global leaders,” the trade representative's office said.

France to introduce tax on big US tech firms in JanuaryPhoto: AFP

The so-called Section 301 investigation is the primary tool the Trump administration has used in the trade war with China to justify tariffs against what the United States says are unfair trade practices.   

USTR will hold hearings to allow for public comment on the issue over several weeks before issuing a final report with a recommendation on what actions to take.
Despite the objections to the French tax proposal however, the statement said the United States will continue to work with other advanced economies to address the conundrum of how to tax tech companies.
The Group of 20 has tasked the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development with finding a fix in the international tax system that has allowed some internet heavyweights to take advantage of low-tax jurisdictions in places like Ireland and pay next to nothing in other countries where they make huge profits.
The Computer & Communications Industry Association on Wednesday applauded the US Trade Representative's move, saying the tax would retroactively require US internet giants operating in France to turn over a percentage of their revenues from the beginning of this year and violates international trade commitments.
“This is a critical step toward preventing protectionist taxes on global trade,” CCIA official Matt Schruers said in a statement.
“CCIA encourages France to lead the effort toward more ambitious global tax reform, instead of the discriminatory national tax measures that harm global trade.”