Septuagenarian Ricci heiress jailed for HSBC tax fraud

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Arlette Ricci, the 73-year-old heiress of the Nina Ricci perfume and fashion business, has been jailed in Paris for tax fraud.

Her accounts at HSBC's private bank in Geneva, containing a total of EUR20 million, came to the authorities' attention through the so-called Lagarde List. Former HSBC employee Hervé Falciani collected data on thousands of HSBC Suisse clients on a CD, which he took to France in 2009. It was later seized by the French police, acting on a Swiss warrant, who passed it on to the French Finance Ministry.

Ricci's account details were on the CD, although some of the accounts were owned through offshore nominees, mostly in Panama. Once she was identified as the owner, the French authorities tapped her phone and recorded various conversations said to show that she knew she was breaking the law.

She was sentenced to a total of three years' imprisonment, two of them suspended, and a EUR1 million fine. The court also confiscated two of her properties, together worth EUR4 million. She must also pay back taxes for the 2007-2009 period. The exact amount will be fixed at a later hearing.

Her lawyer criticised the harshness of the sentence, claiming his client had been scapegoated as part of the French authorities' prosecution of HSBC itself. She may yet appeal.

Ricci's 51-year-old daughter Margot Vignat was also convicted of related offence, for which she received a suspended sentence.

Tessa Lorimer of law firm Withers said that this would certainly not be the only prosecution of HSBC Suisse clients. In fact it is estimated that a further 50 French clients of HSBC are to be tried for tax evasion.


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