Sunday 25 February 2018

Bulgari slams police over probe into its Irish companies

Nick Webb and Louise McBride

Vast luxury jewellery firm Bulgari has slammed Italian police for seizing assets in a dawn raid that was part of a probe into financial transactions involving its Irish subsidiaries.

Last week, Italian police seized more than €46m in assets from executives linked to jeweller Bulgari including Francesco Trapani, who heads parent company LVMH Moet Hennessy, Louis Vuitton SA's watch and jewellery unit, for alleged tax evasion.

Property including real estate, bank assets and company stakes have been confiscated, according to Italy's Guardia di Finanza, or financial police. Billionaire brothers Paolo and Nicola Bulgari, chairman and vice-chairman of Bulgari, were also named in the probe, according to Bloomberg.

Between 2006 and 2011, the executives allegedly reallocated about €3bn of Rome-based Bulgari's revenue into foreign subsidiaries outside of Italy, including units in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Ireland, to avoid paying a higher rate of tax, according to a Guardia di Finanza statement.

Irish company office filings show that a Bulgari unit called Bulgari Ireland Ltd had €693.7m in revenues in 2011. Those sales were primarily to other Bulgari units and included €34.5m of sales in Italy.

Bulgari "is extremely surprised" by the allegations as the units under investigation are "real businesses that perform an undeniably strategic role for the group," the company said in an email. "Bulgari will take all actions necessary to clarify its position."

"The company reminds that the foreign companies at issue that were defined as fictive are real and genuine companies performing am indisputable strategic role for the group and employing about 300 employees of various profiles," according to a statement given to the Sunday Independent last week. "Therefore the claims that are made are unfounded, which will be demonstrated before the competent authorities."

Irish Independent

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