Lycamobile offices raided in tax fraud investigation

FRENCH POLICE have raided the offices of international telecoms group Lycamobile, arresting 19 people and charging nine on suspicion of money laundering and tax fraud, it has been reported.

Almost €1m (£775,000) was confiscated in raids across Lycamobile’s Paris offices last week, both in its Parisian headquarters and a number of Lycamobile-owned residential and business addresses across the city. The group’s French bank accounts have also been frozen.

Nine people have been charged with money laundering and tax fraud, including Alain Jochimek, Lycamobile’s general manager in France.

Money laundering

The offices have been raided after a Buzzfeed investigation last year revealed suspicious financial activity within the company.

French prosecutors at the Parquet National Financier, who were behind the Lycamobile arrests, released a statement: “On Wednesday and Thursday, 19 people suspected of being involved in a money-laundering system implicating Lycamobile and Lycamobile Services were arrested.

“The arrests were part of a Paris judicial investigation into money laundering and VAT fraud. Several places in Paris and its outskirts were raided and police seized about €130,000 in cash and €850,000 from bank accounts.

“Nine people were brought in front of a judge on Friday and charged with money laundering among other things, and eight were released on cash bail while one man remained in custody.

“The charges relate to money laundering of at least €17m and VAT fraud of several million euros.”

Previous concerns

In May, Lycamobile, which has been the biggest donor to the Conservative party since 2011, was criticised by its auditors KPMG over its company structure, which left it unable to account for £134m of assets.

Lyca’s latest filing with Companies House – posted six months late on 7 May – show that the Big Four firm was unable to obtain “all the information and explanations that we consider necessary for the purposes of the audit”.

It earmarked the £134m owed to Lycamobile by related companies, “for which the audit evidence available to us was limited because of the complex nature of the related party structure the company operates within”.

KPMG has held Lyca’s audit since it won the tender from EY in 2014 and flagged in its notes that it was “unable to determine whether adequate accounting records have been kept”.

According to Buzzfeed, HMRC have begun an investigation into Lycamobile’s finances, but HMRC declined to comment. A HMRC spokesperson said: “We don’t discuss identifiable taxpayers. We receive information from a wide range of sources and we use it to make sure the UK’s tax laws are respected.”

Lycamobile has been contacted for comment.

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