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FRAUD

Former Geneva bank exec could face charges

Swiss bank Reyl and Cie, under investigation in France for enabling tax fraud, said Saturday it had filed a criminal complaint against a former employee who testified in the case.

Former Geneva bank exec could face charges
Pierre Condamin-Gerbier. Photo: AFP

The Geneva-based bank said it was seeking charges against Pierre Condamin-Gerbier "for, among other things, theft, falsifying documents and violating professional and commercial confidentiality".

Condamin-Gerbier was earlier this month a witness before a French parliamentary commission investigating former budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac, who is facing charges of tax fraud.

The French minister resigned in disgrace in March over an undeclared foreign bank account said to contain around €600,000 ($770,000).

The former banker has told media he knew of 15 French politicians and "big names" with undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland and said he had handed the information over to French investigators.

According to news reports, he also provided detailed accounts of how Reyl helped rich French entrepreneur Alexandre Allard, who had been living abroad, to minimize his fortune of several hundreds of millions of dollars when he brought it back to France in a bid to dodge taxes.

"The numerous untruthful declarations given despite the bank's categorical denials, the falsification of an internal (bank) memo and its delivery to a French medium, has left the bank no other choice but to drop its reserve and act," Reyl said in a statement.

It said it had handed all evidence in the case to the Swiss public prosecutor's office.

The bank has repeatedly denied the allegations, and on Saturday reiterated that it "has no bank account relations . . . with French residents who hold or have held political duties in France."

A Swiss daily, Tribune de Genève, meanwhile reported on Saturday that people "close to the family" of Condamin-Gerbier believed he may have been arrested in Switzerland upon his return after testifying in Paris on July 3rd.

An unnamed friend of the family told the paper the ex-banker had not been seen since July 4th.

"For the past week, we have not been able to contact him, which can only corroborate the thesis that he has been arrested," he said.

A spokesman for police in the southwestern Swiss canton of Vaud, where Condamin-Gerbier is believed to have been detained, told AFP he had no knowledge about the reported arrest.

His wife refused to comment on the arrest report, when contacted by AFP.

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FRAUD

Massive Côte du Rhône fine-wine fraud uncovered by French police

Some 66.5 million bottles of wine, the equivalent of 13 Olympic sized swimming pools full of plonk, was falsely sold as high quality Côtes-du-Rhône wine, French officials have revealed.

Massive Côte du Rhône fine-wine fraud uncovered by French police
Photo: Flickr

Almost half a million hectolitres of wine was sold off under the Côtes du Rhône AOC label – which denotes both the geographical origin of the wine and a certification of quality. 

Some of the wine, 10,000 litres in fact, was even falsely sold under the renowned Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOP label, the commercial value off which was €7000,000.

The massive fraud was revealed in a report this week by France's consumer fraud body the Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes (DGCDRF).

Their inquiry into the 2017 scam unearthed a “massive misuse of the Côtes-du-Rhône label” including by a major wine producer, which has not been named.

But DGCCRF chief executive Virginie Beaumeunier told the press that the “CEO of the company” was “indicted for deception and fraud”.

Wine fraud in France has become an issue for authorities and customers alike in recent years with the problem being highlighted by the jailing in 2016 of a French wine baron.

Francois-Marie Marret was given a two-year sentence for fraud for blending poor quality wine with high-end Saint-Emilions, Lalande-de-Pomerols and Listrac-Medocs to sell to major supermarkets under prestigious labels.

The 800,000-litre (211,000-gallon) “moon wine” fraud, so called because the cheap wine was spirited to his operation by night, was uncovered thanks to the diligent work of French customs inspectors.

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The hunt for fraudsters in France's wine heartlands

The country has been hit by several fraud scandals in recent years.

In 2010, 12 French winemakers and dealers were convicted of selling millions of bottles of fake Pinot Noir to the US firm E&J Gallo.

Before that, in 2006 legendary Beaujolais winemaker Georges Duboeuf was fined more than 30,000 euros for blending grapes from different vineyards to disguise the poor quality of certain prized vintages.