The State Duma decided to pay special attention to the Federal Tax Service on the structures of Auchan and related companies.
Photo: Olga MAKAROVA
Andrey Lugovoy, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption, sent an appeal to the Minister of Finance of the Russian Federation Anton Siluanov “to comprehensively and objectively verify the financial and economic activities of the group.
The reason for the deputy’s appeal was the information received from him on tax optimization, which is of a doubtful nature. In a letter to the minister, Andrei Lugovoy cites several methods used as an example, which are the reason for verification.
HIGH TURNOVER – FEW TAXES
In particular, an ultra-low tax burden ratio of 0.4 percent. For reference: The Federal Tax Service annually publishes tax burden indicators for various industries, which are a guide for regulatory authorities. For retail trade, for example, it is 4.5%. The discrepancy between the declared tax burden and the indicative indicators is a reason for the tax authorities to conduct an audit of the organization’s activities.
– Auchan stores and related structures are located in different regions, where they interact with local tax authorities. Therefore, I do not exclude a certain interest in corruption, – noted the deputy.
In its request, it said that, based on the results of the inspections, the tax authorities set the minimum additional charges for the Auchan group of companies.
However, several years ago an attempt was made to carry out a deep audit of the commercial network. The lawyer Aleksey Zharkov was in charge of the audit. Information about what he managed to identify is, for example, on the website of the publication The Secret of the Firm.
“Russian Auchan employees introduced for them (supplier companies) “entry bonuses” for getting on the retailer’s shelf – an average of 3-7 million rubles. In addition, retro bonuses of more than 5% of income were practiced, which is expressly prohibited by law. Due to collusion with Auchan employees, many companies won the bid and reduced the price by a few kopecks from the competition’s price.
Buyers, category managers, department heads and other employees of the company, whose names the lawyer did not disclose for the sake of the investigation, participated in these schemes.
The information that Alexei Zharkov collected during the audit almost became fatal for him. Once, two people ran up to him on the street and hit him over the head with a pipe. Broken skull, two weeks in a coma, a month in the hospital. The facts collected by Zharkov seem to have dissolved and, more importantly, the French top management has lost interest in them, as well as in continuing with the audit.
As Forbes wrote, “Family secrets should stay in the family. Although lately they are increasingly filtering into the public space. In May 2016, the homes of members of the Muillier family were raided in Belgium, Luxembourg and Roubaix. According to French media, the eight-month investigation was carried out in response to a complaint from a member of the Muillier family, who suspected the company’s management of tax fraud and money laundering. Searches were also carried out at Patrick Mulier’s house.
Information was published on lenta.ru that “in 2019, the Mullier family was accused of undercover business activities. According to the Carta A publication, the court ordered the recovery of 88.8 million euros from the Soderec company, owned by this family. Dozens of financial flows between Soderec and other Mulier companies are at the center of the French administration’s investigation. And last year, the French Treasury recovered several million euros from fifteen members of the Muillier family for reducing their assets in the ISF declaration. In their income statement, they reduced the cost of their participation in the family business and charged them almost six million euros in compensation.
SCHEMES ARE DIFFERENT
According to Andrei Lugovoi, optimization schemes that “outwardly seem legal, but upon closer examination, can turn out to be criminalized” require separate verification.
“Therefore, we decided to pay special attention to the Federal Tax Service on the structures of Auchan and related companies,” said the deputy. He highlighted that he has information on at least three tax optimization schemes used by the retailer. One of them, the deputy suggests tax specialists to study especially closely. He said that he could not reveal his details yet.
In his request, Andrey Lugovoy said that the main group companies conduct transactions with the Russian division in such a way that it is constantly in a state of financial dependence on the main group companies, with a high level of debt. In addition, for business transactions that take place in Russia, tax obligations are transferred to foreign jurisdictions: France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg. In addition, most of the participants in the Russian Auchan group are constantly recording losses.
– In December, the US Congress passed the so-called Whistleblower Act. Anyone can receive a monetary reward for information that Russian citizens or legal entities on the sanctions list are somehow missing. We also lack such a law. In the conditions of a special military operation, it is necessary to have information about which of the Western or Russian companies operating on the territory of the Russian Federation are trying to help representatives of hostile countries in tax evasion and, in fact, in violation of any law. , – said Andrey Lugovoy.
Andrei Lugovoy has not yet received a response to his application (it is being processed within 30 days), but according to the information available, it is already being worked on.
Although the inspection of AFM’s activities in Russia initiated by the deputy is not connected to the current political agenda, its results may put Mulier before a choice: start paying more taxes to the Russian treasury or reduce activities. So far, the owners of Auchan seem to be trying to please both ours and you: on the one hand, another Decathlon chain in Russia is closing and at the same time they are reopening their stores in the Ukraine. On the other hand, as RIA Novosti recently reported, Ukraine accuses Auchan and Leroy Merlin of sending goods to the Russian army and includes the Muillier family on a list of international “war sponsors”.
Meanwhile, rumors are spreading on the net that they just want to close Auchan.
– This is the largest commercial network. Nobody is going to close it. Although hints on this topic are trying to create a stir, it seems to me, your managers. They already write letters to my e-mail “hands off Auchan!”, they try to bombard me with voice messages. Although everyone understands this very well: if information has appeared, it must be verified, commented Andrey Lugovoy.