But what does the PNF do? According to our sources, the national financial prosecutor’s office is studying the possibility of a preliminary investigation targeting the consulting firm McKinsey. A high-risk subject in the midst of the presidential election since the American company, whose executives worked for candidate Macron’s 2017 campaign, saw its benefits explode under the current five-year term… The PNF, which had not hesitated to launch an investigation on François Fillon during the previous presidential campaign, does he now have his hand trembling at the idea of triggering a file likely to call into question the top of the state?
Be that as it may, the PNF’s “reflection” on the McKinsey case began on March 16 with the publication of the Senate report. The legal scenario on which the national financial prosecutor seems to stumble is however simple and hackneyed. ” In tax matters, the prosecution is blocked by the Bercy lock, since only the tax authorities can initiate proceedings for tax evasion. But the PNF can always launch an investigation for laundering tax evasion “, decodes a specialized magistrate.
Two options on the table
First option, the national financial prosecutor’s office can decide to wait for the outcome of the tax investigation launched last December, in the wake of the Senate inquiry committee, and a possible future complaint. In this scenario, no criminal proceedings for several months… Second option, the PNF can now initiate investigations for “laundering of tax evasion” and initiate its own research. ” It suffices to characterize the way in which the possible tax evasion could be used in France », Explains an expert, convinced that in the case of figure « it should be quite simple, since McKinsey is well established… »
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In the past, the PNF has already experienced similar cases by initiating investigations for laundering tax fraud against Google, Mc Donald’s or even the Balkany spouses… Concerning Google, which did not pay tax in France and traced the proceeds of its French activity in Ireland, the investigation started with a complaint from the tax authorities and ended with an agreement for one billion euros in the pockets of the State. The PNF investigation had immediately provoked a muscular police raid on the premises of Google France, allowing significant seizures of exhibits. In the case of McDonald’s, it is a complaint for money laundering from employees which is at the origin of the prosecution of the PNF, upstream of any tax prosecution. With the Balkany spouses, the PNF even opened an investigation for laundering tax evasion more than six months before receiving the complaint from the tax authorities for tax evasion…
Suspicions of tax evasion
The McKinsey case on which the PNF “reflects” nevertheless seems very simple: “ The conclusion is clearwrite the Senate investigators: the McKinsey firm is subject to corporation tax in France but its payments have been zero euros for at least 10 years, while its turnover on national territory reached 329 million euros in 2020, including about 5% in the public sector, and that it employs about 600 people there. It is difficult not to better characterize suspicions of tax evasion!
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The parliamentarians came to Bercy to demand the file of the American consulting company and decipher the workings of this tax sleight of hand: the two ” French entities of McKinsey » pay annual « transfert price » » to their parent company, based in the US state of Delaware, known to be a mini tax haven in the heart of the United States. Those ” transfert price ” are ” supposed to compensate for shared expenses within the group: general administration costs, use of the brand, internal assistance within the network, provision of personnel, etc. “In fact, these financial lifts that cross the Atlantic purely and simply weigh down the finances of the two French entities, which, once in deficit, find themselves with a zero tax slate in France. Either a potential shortfall for the taxpayer estimated at several tens of millions of euros…
On a global scale, the IMF, in a March 2019 report, figures at 450 billion dollars, or 1% of world GDP, the tax loss of States linked to these phenomena of seeking softer taxation alone. On a French scale alone, this shortfall would represent an annual loss for the tax authorities of 21 billion euros.
In the McKinsey case, legal or not legal? “ The problem of transfers is a problem well known to the tax authorities “Admits a specialized lawyer, convinced that again, Bercy” was very uncurious with McKinsey “. A tax investigation has been underway since December, following the launch of the Senate inquiry committee. In their report, the senators point out that the “ transfert price » « must comply with the arm’s length principle “, which means that the price practiced between the entities of McKinsey installed in France and the parent company based in Delaware, ” must be the same as that which would have been practiced in the market between two independent undertakings “. The senators point out in bold in their report that overvalued transfer prices ” would represent a tax irregularity, because they would artificially reduce the results of a company and therefore the payment of corporate tax “.
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It is up to the courts to dispel these suspicions or not. Even if it means sticking your nose in the relations between an American consulting firm and the multiple administrations that have employed it for ten years… With the risk, at the end of the day, of uncovering incestuous relations between the various actors, senior officials and politicians. on one side, consultants on the other. ” If it were discovered during an initial investigation for laundering tax evasion, that for example certain McKinsey reports were bogus or over-invoiced, this could then give rise to other criminal qualifications, as in any case. judicial “, concludes a lawyer. The ball is in the court of the PNF.