'Jesus' Castel’s Tax Evasion

Pierre Castel, founder of the French Castel Group, has been sentenced to pay back taxes and a fine of the equivalent of €424 mill. in Switzerland. 

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The founder of the Castel Group is sentenced to pay high back taxes (Logo: Castel)
The founder of the Castel Group is sentenced to pay high back taxes (Logo: Castel)

As the French wine magazine Vitisphere reports, the 96-year-old billionaire, who has lived in Switzerland for a long time, did not inform the tax authorities that he was the head of the Castel Group and had received high dividends from 2007 to 2009 via a foundation in Liechtenstein.

After the election of French Socialist President François Mitterrand in 1981, Pierre Castel had left France and lived under his middle name "Jesus" Castel in Geneva from 1990 to 2012, which had allowed him to escape the attention of the authorities for about 30 years.

It was only in 2017 that the two identities had been identified as one person. In their ruling of 5 July 2022, the authorities reported, "Mr Pierre Castel's tax returns differed significantly from the elements of income and assets attributed to him by the press." The Swiss tax authorities now want to tax the founder of the Castel beer and wine group and his numerous holding companies.
 

Oral agreements and handshakes

Pierre Castel denied tax evasion, saying he "only failed to declare certain elements of income and assets between 2007 and 2011" (alleged profits of €18.4 million in 2007 and €50.1 million in 2008). There are probably no documents on this, since according to "old management" there were only verbal agreements and "handshakes", as Castel assured. Due to these missing documents, the Swiss tax authorities believe that Pierre Castel "retained control of the group from an operational point of view and received almost all dividends from the holding company", which Pierre Castel, however, denied.

The Castel Group claims to be the third largest wine player in the world. Its turnover is €800 mill. euros for 500 mill. bottles sold per year. The Castel Group owns world-famous brands such as "Baron de Lestac" in Bordeaux, "Kriter" in Burgundy, "Roche Mazet" in the Languedoc, "Listel" in the Camargue as well as Vieux Papes, but also wine shops such as Barton&Guestier, Barrière Frères, Patriarche and the winery and retail chain Nicolas.
 

Only a personal affair

Michael Heinrich, managing director of LFE and Herzberger, a subsidiary of the Castel group, commented to our sister publication WEINWIRTSCHAFT that it exclusively concerned the personal concerns of Pierre Castel himself and not those of the group as such. "The group's tax rate is 35%, which is in line with the rules", Heinrich affirms. He said that he would refrain from commenting further.

The Swiss Federal Court confirmed to Vitisphere that there was an appeal for this case but did not provide any further information. 

 

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