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'Unlicensed' British ski instructors summoned

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'Unlicensed' British ski instructors summoned
People skiing in a region close to Grenoble. Photo: Luqua/Flickr
08:59 CET+01:00
A British tour operator in the French Alps has been summoned to court to face charges of providing ski lessons without a license, prosecutors said on Friday.

Simon Butler, who operates a tour company in Megeve near Mont Blanc, was arrested on Tuesday along with two of his instructors, prosecutor Pierre-Yves Michau said. They were released on Wednesday but are due to appear in court on April 7 to face charges of operating as unlicensed instructors.

Butler is also facing charges of failing to declare foreign employees in France.

Butler, who has operated in the region for about 30 years, was fined 10,000 euros ($13,725) on a similar charge in 2004. He was sentenced to pay another 10,000 euro fine and serve six months in jail in 2013, but that case is under appeal.

So-called "ski hosts" -- British guides who show guests around slopes and local facilities -- are a popular service among the thousands of Britons who ski in France every year. But several such operations have been fined, with French authorities insisting they must obtain local licenses.

Michau said Butler "is completely resistant to French law.

"He says he will continue, that he will not conform with what we are asking," he said.

Butler's lawyer, Philippe Planes, said his client had the right to operate under his British license in France under European and international laws.

"Mr. Butler is not a criminal but is being treated as one," Planes said, adding that Butler had filed a complaint with the European Commission accusing France of discrimination and restricting his freedom of movement.

Another British tour operator, Yorkshire-based Le Ski, was last year fined more than 26,000 euros for employing unlicensed British ski resort guides and paying them below the minimum wage.

Piste wars: 'It's one rule for the French and one for foreigners'


 

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