Google’s Paris headquarters was raided by French authorities as a part of an ongoing tax evasion investigation on Tuesday, according to French daily newspaper Le Parisien. The raid occurred around 5 a.m. local time in France’s capital (11 p.m. ET), and about 100 investigators took part. The investigation, which began in June 2015, extends into tax evasion and money laundering, according to Reuters.
Updated on 05-29-2016 by Lulu Chang: Analysis of data collected from raid could take years
And while authorities are now in possession of Google’s data, it could “possibly take years” to analyze, said French financial prosecutor Eliane Houlette on Sunday.
In an interview with Europe 1 radio, the prosecutor revealed that 96 individuals were involved in the raid, and that officials “have collected a lot of computer data.” But, Houlette continued, “We need to analyze (the data) … (it will take) months, I hope that it won’t be several years, but we are very limited in resources.”
Google, for its part, has thus far maintained its innocence.
“We comply with the tax law in France, as in every other country in which we operate,” a Google spokesperson told Digital Trends. “We are cooperating fully with the authorities in Paris to answer their questions, as always.”
Earlier this year, French officials said the government was seeking nearly $1.76 billion in back taxes from Google, and complained about the firm’s aggressive tax avoidance techniques. Tech giants like Apple, Facebook, Yahoo! and Google are notorious for using loopholes in U.S. tax laws, and in other nation’s laws, by parking cash in offshore havens to avoid paying their share of taxes.
Common methods used by these companies include the “Double Irish” and the “Dutch Sandwich,” which has one company sending its profits through an Irish company, which then routes the money to a Dutch company, and the Dutch company then sends it to a second Irish company based in a tax haven.
In early April of this year, a blimp floated around Google’s Tel Aviv headquarters, and read, “Google must pay tax.”
In January of 2016, Google agreed to pay $185 million in back taxes to the U.K. The settlement ended a six-year investigation by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and the company said it would reform its tax practices, and that it “will now pay tax based on revenue from U.K.-based advertisers, which reflects the size and scope of our U.K. business.”
Apple is also facing a European tax investigation, which could force the company to pay more than $8 billion in back taxes.