Taxman blasted as French take lead on avoidance

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HMRC’s handling of the HSBC scandal has once again come under attack, following the conviction of a multi-millionaire fashion heiress.

This week, Arlette Ricci, heir to the Nina Ricci perfume and fashion brand, was jailed by a French court for hoarding millions of euros in an offshore HSBC account. She was sentenced to a year in prison and two years suspended, along with a fine of €1 million (£720,000).

Ms Ricci is the first of 50 French nationals facing trial over HSBC’s offshore accounts, which were leaked to authorities by whistleblower Hervé Falciani.

In contrast, UK tax authorities have prepared just three potential criminal cases from the 3,600 British individuals highlighted by the “Falciani List”. Of that trio, the Crown Prosecution Service has only brought action against one.

Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), branded the result “pathetic” – claiming that France has once again led the fight against tax avoidance.

She said: “The French are showing that you can defend the taxpayer’s interest much more aggressively by challenging rich individuals and multinationals. All we ask is that they pay a fair share of tax.”

HMRC defended its record, claiming it has recouped £135 million in unpaid tax. Many of those on the “Falciani List” were able to do a deal with authorities, giving them immunity if they fully disclosed their information.

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