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Wine Billionaire Filed Taxes Under False Name, Owes Hundreds of Millions

Wine Billionaire Filed Taxes Under False Name, Owes Hundreds of Millions

Wine billionaire, Pierre Castel, a Frenchman, filed Swiss tax returns under a false name for years and now owes hundreds of millions of dollars.

Castel is the founder of the Nicolas chain of wine and champagne shops, which now boasts 500 locations worldwide. Today, according to a Bloomberg report, the magnate "was ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in Swiss back taxes in a court ruling that found he deliberately hid his identity for decades as head of a global drinks empire."

An appeals court in Geneva found that Castel, 95, filed his tax returns under a different first name between 1982 and 1994. He owes approximately 415 million Swiss francs ($416 million USD) to the Swiss government. 

Bloomberg's report notes that the details surrounding the case are somewhat murky, and it remains unclear if Castel and his legal team plan to appeal the ruling. According to the court order, they have 30 days to do so. 

Bloomberg also reached out to the Swiss federal tax administration, who declined to comment. 

Castel is known as France's wealthiest tax exile. He moved to Switzerland in 1981 after the election of Socialist President Francois Mitterrand. He and his family built their fortune from a small shop in Bordeaux to one of the largest purveyors of alcohol in the world. 

Swiss authorities began their investigation into Castel in 2017 after suspicions arose that he was in possession of an undeclared fortune.

Castel, who was born in 1926, officially began the Castel Group in 1949. The company's webpage notes that they are a winemaker, a wine trader, and a wine merchant. 

Their cornerstone, wine trading, is officially described as:

This is a core activity, helping to raise the profile of French wines across the globe, and is effectively carried out at CASTEL’s facilities based in each of France’s major winegrowing regions, by 9 Maisons de Vin, and their independent, mutually complementary partners. Together they offer an unrivalled range covering all distribution channels in France and abroad, with wines from a vast spectrum of terroirs. Over the years, this wine trading expertise has enriched, and been enriched by, that of recognised French wine houses.

At this time, the secretive Castel family has not issued any public commentary regarding the tax ruling.

What do you think about Pierre Castel's tax filings?

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Rebekah Barton

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