• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Winemaker’s tax troubles shake canton of Valais

Malcolm Curtis · 13 Dec 2013, 11:55

Published: 13 Dec 2013 11:55 GMT+01:00

Dominique Giroud is a pillar of the canton’s wine-making industry with a successful track record for the past 15 years whose company has sponsored the Sion football club, as well other sports clubs and events such as the Patrouille des Glaciers, the celebrated ski mountaineering race.

But several weeks ago Le Temps newspaper revealed that Giroud was under investigation by tax authorities in Bern for failing to disclose millions of francs in profits from 2001 to 2009.

In September, authorities froze 11.5 million francs’ worth of assets belonging to Giroud’s wife and his company Giroud Vins SA.

The information was a well-guarded secret until it was leaked to Le Temps.

Giroud told Le Nouvelliste, a newspaper in Valais, last week that he was in the process of settling the tax dispute and the “different points of view” with federal authorities.

The disclosure of the tax fraud investigation was greeted with incredulity in the Valais wine industry, especially given the size of the profits involved, Le Matin newspaper reported.

“It’s not through wine that you can make such profits, even with a big cellar,” an unidentified member of the Valais parliament is quoted as saying.

Other representatives of the canton’s wine industry — the biggest in Switzerland — are loath to comment on the issue publicly.

But the scandal has taken on a political dimension given Giroud’s connections with members of the Valais cantonal government.

He is reputedly a friend of Oskar Freysinger, a cantonal cabinet minister and federal MP.

Freysinger, a member of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, has earned a certain notoriety for his views against Muslim immigration and in favour of Switzerland’s ban on minarets.

In 2011, he welcomed Dutch right-wing extremist Geert Wilders in Giroud’s wine cellar after a local municipality refused to allow him in the village hall.

Freysinger described the news of the tax probe as an “orchestrated leak” and an effort to “politically destabilize” the canton.

He said that opponents were going after Giroud in a bid to weaken Maurice Tornay, Valais’s minister of finances and a member of the Christian Democrat party.

Before becoming a minister, Tornay headed a financial services firm that audited the winemaker’s company, although the politician has denied any involvement in the case.

If Giroud is found guilty of dodging taxes at the federal, cantonal and municipal level, he could face hefty penalties of more than 20 million francs, according to Le Matin.

But Freysinger said the case should not be overstated.

“There is litigation on the taxes as can happen every day in Switzerland,” he told Le Matin.

Story continues below…

“There is a procedure under way and I await to see the real result — I am waiting for proof.”

Le Nouvelliste, the local daily whose publisher Jean-Marie Fournier is reportedly close to Giroud, has supported the idea that the news about his tax troubles was intentionally leaked.

In an editorial, the paper identified Brigitte Hauser, a high civil servant and an associate of federal Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, as the source for the leak.

Contacted by Le Matin, Hauser denied this was the case, adding she was shocked by the accusation and is considering legal action. 

For more about Giroud's wine company check this YouTube video :

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Prison for woman who faked Swiss airport bomb threat
Geneva airport. Photo: eGuide Travel

The 41-year-old French mother of four provoked a massive security scare at Geneva airport.

Hot weather causes forest fire fears in Valais
Bonfires are traditionally lit to celebrate Swiss National Day. Photo: Marcus Gyger/Swiss Tourism

National Day fireworks and bonfires should be staged with caution, says the canton.

Swiss National Day: five traditions all expats should try
Want to learn to play the alphorn? File photo: Christof Sonderegger/Swiss Tourism

Celebrate Swiss National Day on August 1st by learning these proud Swiss traditions.

Swiss bank bounces back from losses
File photo: Emmanuel Dunand

Credit Suisse is back in profit following a first quarter dip.

Man falls to his death over dropped ski pole
The site of the accident. Photo: Valais cantonal police

Frenchman dies after he went to pick up a dropped ski pole and fell 200 metres down a mountain.

Young migrant injured after jumping from window
The girl was staying in a centre for asylum seekers in Zweisimmen. Photo: Vasile Cotovanu

A 15-year-old girl due to be deported from Switzerland is in hospital after jumping from a window.

Woman faked airport bomb threat over marital tiff
The bomb threat caused a big security alert at Geneva airport. File photo: Richard Juilliart

Wednesday's bomb threat was invented by a woman who wanted to get revenge on her husband’s mistress.

Bencic joins Federer in opting out of Rio

The Swiss is the latest top 20 tennis star to pull out of Olympics.

Swiss sports court heads to Rio Olympics
CAS has relocated from Lausanne (pictured) to Rio to deal with doping matters. Photo: CAS

The Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has temporarily relocated to Rio so it can make rulings over Olympic doping from the scene.

Police step up security at Geneva airport after tip-off
File photo: eGuide Travel

UPDATE: Police gradually withdraw security measures put in place this morning after an unspecified threat against the building.

File photo: Chase Elliott Clark
Lifestyle
Study: a fifth of Swiss spy on neighbours
Photo: Katwarn.de
National
Switzerland mulls alarm text message service
Photo: The Local
National
Study: grazing cows are worse for the environment
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: Kecko
National
Terror fears trigger Swiss run on guns
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: Commune d'Ayent
National
Spectacular Valais ‘bisse’ to feature on new banknote
Photo: Swiss Post
National
Swiss Post moves to accept debit cards – sometimes
Photo: Chris Marquardt
Lifestyle
Police break up dispute over late-night laundry
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Photo: Grand Tours Project
Features
Why you should get on your bike in Switzerland
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Photo: The Local
Society
Swiss village tells landlords: don’t rent homes to refugees
Photo: Rolf Krahl/Christophe G
International
Survey: world willing to pay more for ‘Swissness’
Photo: The Local
International
Chaos in Como after Swiss send back refugees
Photo: AFP/The Local
Lifestyle
Nine top celebrity hotspots in Switzerland
Photo: Graubunden police
National
World-class Swiss climber Norbert Joos dies on ‘home mountain’
Photo: Kathleen Waters
Society
Italian ‘ignored’ by Swiss schools in language wars
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: Whitepod
Features
The quirkiest places to stay in Switzerland
International
Migrant busted trying to sneak into Switzerland in a suitcase
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Photo: Jonathan Kos-Read
National
Basel suffers wettest six months for 150 years
Photo: Georges Gobet/AFP
Technology
Why Swiss science could suffer badly from Brexit fallout
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: Robert Valencia
International
Swiss couple in Nicaragua told to give back adopted daughter
Photo: Zurich cantonal police
National
Police hunt prisoner on the run in Zurich murder case
Photo: Christoph G
Politics
Switzerland sets out law on expelling foreign criminals
Photo: Bernacqua
Lifestyle
Drone shocks nudists at Swiss waterpark
Photo: Basel Justice and Security Dept
Lifestyle
New signs lay down law and order for Basel prostitutes
4,571
jobs available