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French prosecutors raid GE site in tax fraud probe

Prosecutors searched the industrial site of US conglomerate GE in eastern France on Thursday as part of an inquiry into claims it avoided millions of euros in taxes by transferring profits abroad.

The National Financial Prosecutors’ Office confirmed the raid in Belfort. GE officials declined to comment.

Tensions between unions and GE management have run high in recent years as the company cut hundreds of French jobs on slumping demand for gas turbines and other power-generation equipment.

The tax inquiry was opened after the head of France’s Communist Party, Fabien Roussel, told authorities in July 2019 of his “suspicions of tax optimisation and fraud” by the company.

Last May, the works’ council and unions at the site filed their own complaint, alleging that GE had transferred 555 million euros of profit from the Belfort operation to Switzerland or the United States.

Unions accused management of trying to show the site was losing money in order to justify the job cuts at the site — depriving the French government of millions of euros in tax revenue in the process.

GE has denied the claims, saying it obeys the tax laws in every country where it operates.

“Today at our site, the company is the subject of a search by the judicial police,” management wrote in an email to Belfort’s 4,000 employees.

“These officers will be going through the offices, a normal procedure in this type of inquiry.”