• Switzerland's news in English
 

Winemaker’s tax troubles shake canton of Valais

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.

“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
Property salesman jailed over gambling addiction
Photo: AFP

Property salesman jailed over gambling addiction

A real estate salesman who gambled away and otherwise spent several million francs obtained from client deposits and through other fraudulent means was jailed for five years by a Lausanne court on Wednesday. READ  

EU approves Novartis mega deals with GSK
Photo: Paivi Tiittanen

EU approves Novartis mega deals with GSK

The European Union on Wednesday approved mega deals involving drugmakers Novartis of Switzerland and GlaxoSmithKline of Britain, provided they sell off assets in the vaccines and consumer health businesses. READ  

Leukerbad ski lift operator in dire straits
Skiers on the slopes at Torrent. Photo: Switzerland Tourism

Leukerbad ski lift operator in dire straits

A ski lift operator at the mountain resort and spa town of Leukerbad in the canton of Valais is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. READ  

Swiss men's ski team announced for Worlds
Carlo Janka in action. Photo: AFP/File

Swiss men's ski team announced for Worlds

In-form all-rounder Carlo Janka will head up the 12-strong Swiss team for the February 2nd-15th World Ski Championships in Colorado, Switzerland's ski federation announced on Wednesday. READ  

ILO sees potential in Juncker jobs plan
Jean-Claude Juncker. Photo: European People's Party/flickr

ILO sees potential in Juncker jobs plan

An ambitious European investment plan could create 2.1 million jobs by 2018 if properly implemented, the Geneva-based International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Wednesday. READ  

Rights court hears Swiss appeal of 'genocide' case
Turkish politician Dogu Perinçek. Photo: AFP/File

Rights court hears Swiss appeal of 'genocide' case

The case of a Turkish politician who declared in Switzerland that the Armenian genocide is an “international lie” is to be reconsidered by Europe’s top human rights court in Strasbourg on Wednesday. READ  

Restructuring costs reduce Roche profits
Photo: Roche

Restructuring costs reduce Roche profits

Global restructuring costs ate into profits as Swiss drugs giant Roche on Wednesday recorded a 16 percent drop in net income to 9.5 billion francs ($10.5 billion) for 2014. READ  

Tennis: Australian Open
Nishikori win sends Wawrinka to semifinals
Photo: Greg Wood/AFP/File

Nishikori win sends Wawrinka to semifinals

Defending champion Stan Wawrinka wasted five match points before sealing a straight sets win over Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori to reach the semifinals at the Australian Open on Wednesday. READ  

Right-wing group seeks national face veil ban
Member of the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland wears niqab while distributing flyers in Ticino against veil ban in 2013. Photo: Fabrice Coffrrini/AFP

Right-wing group seeks national face veil ban

The same group that launched the initiative to ban the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is now seeking a national law to prohibit the wearing of veils and other face-covering headgear. READ  

Swiss docs 'worst' for leaving items in patients
Photo: AFP

Swiss docs 'worst' for leaving items in patients

Swiss hospitals may have a good reputation but doctors from Switzerland have the worst record in Europe for leaving medical instruments or “foreign bodies” inside patients after operations, according to an OECD report. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
Sponsored Article
Avoid the costs of wild Swiss currency swings
Features
Anglophone expats in Switzerland mine creativity to earn crust
National
Number of 'immigrants' swells to third of Swiss population: report
International
Pricey Switzerland tops latest global cost of living study
National
Swiss travel agents and retailers cut prices after franc surge
Technology
Solar Impulse team unveils round-the-world route for sun-powered plane
Business & Money
Swiss central bank's shock move to let franc rise sparks debate
National
Markets panic as Swiss National Bank scraps euro rate cap
National
VIDEO: Swiss soldiers publish pictures of antics on internet
National
A portrait of modern Switzerland in ten stats
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Features
Geneva-based expat pens seismic novel about Haitian homeland
Features
Tons of explosives finally removed from hundreds of Swiss sites
International
'Don't succumb to fear': Swiss President Sommaruga on terrorism
Sport
Federer claims historic 1,000th win at Brisbane tennis tournament
National
Swiss newspapers condemn deadly Charlie Hebdo terror attack
Business & Money
Hackers steal client information from Geneva cantonal bank
National
Charlie Hebdo terror attack in Paris sparks Swiss rallies
National
Pop star Madonna leaves her mark during Swiss mountain holiday
National
Disassembled Solar Impulse heads to Emirates in jumbo jet
National
US ambassador in Bern sparks flap over Swiss ski lift line 'chaos'
National
New President Sommaruga lauds 'bold' Swiss democracy
National
Hopes fade of finding missing Scottish researcher still alive
National
Scientists in Lausanne and Belgium step up search for alien life
National
Nude 'selfie' mayor heads Switzerland's top ten scandal list
Features
The Local's top ten snow sport alternatives to skiing in Switzerland
Culture
Suspected stabber Nabilla given conditional release from detention
International
Swiss hotel school grad 'hero' among Australian café siege victims
Business & Money
Switzerland cracks top ten list of best countries for business
Business & Money
Swiss National Bank imposes negative interest rates
Politics
Federal cabinet ministers rapped for accepting new limouisines
International
Swiss chocolate café at centre of hostage-taking drama Down Under
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Features
Exploring the 'most beautiful village' in French-speaking Switzerland
Business & Money
Italian thieves steal 260 tons of Swiss Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate
National
World's longest train tunnel — under the Swiss Alps — set to open in 2016
National
Porn film on video screen spices up fare at Swiss McDonald's restaurant
National
Masturbation scene in Swiss TV ad for Media Markt draws complaints
National
Cantonal lawmakers end 'happy hours' tippling in Vaud pubs and bars
Politics
Former concert pianist Sommaruga elected as next Swiss president
Culture
Jailed German art forger's paintings go on sale at Bern gallery
Business & Money
Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad's family listed as Switzerland's richest
Features
Long-time expats face dilemma: to be or not to be a Swiss citizen
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

1,332
jobs available