French prosecutors determination to crackdown on alleged tax avoidance by Google has been laid bare by revelations that the prosecutor’s office spent almost a year plotting a dramatic raid on the search giant’s Paris base with 100 investigators in tow.
The sudden move caught Google completely by surprise with the business now facing the prospect of a $1.8bn fine after French financial prosecutor Eliane Houlette went to extreme lengths to keep her intentions secret, referring to Google only by the codename ‘Tulip’ to prevent anyone from the business from getting wind of their raid.
Speaking to Europe 1 Houlette said: “We’ve dealt [with this investigation] in complete secret given this company’s business. In order to protect this secret, we decided that we would give another name to Google and never pronounce Google’s name — Tulip. And we’ve worked offline on this investigation for nearly a year. We used one computer, but only as a word processor.”
France has thus far ruled out striking a deal with Google along the lines of that agreed in the UK, choosing instead to play hardball amidst the prospect of a bitter trial which could drag on for years.
Google has been under the spotlight in France (and elsewhere) over its tax affairs, with the majority of revenue routed to its European HQ in Ireland in order to minimise its liabilities.