GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Valais wine producers are up in arms against accusations by producer Dominique Giroud that risk tarnishing the reputation of the entire industry. The IVV, wine interprofessional association in the canton, issued a press release Friday calling for names of anyone involved in the Giroud case to be revealed, and for information about anyone creating fake billings to be brought out into the open.
The angry calls for transparency came after RTS public television aired new programmes last week on the Giroud affair, where he is reported to have told tax authorities that yes, he had created CHF2.8 million in fake bills, but everyone was doing it. The IVV, wine inter-professional association, lost no time Friday in angrily saying “not so”.
The unfolding Giroud affair
First there was the money spent by Dominique Giroud’s winery, Giroud SA in Sion, large quantities of it by Valais winery standards, which raised eyebrows.
Then there was the accusation, in court, by a Vaud winery, suggesting that Giroud was cutting a relatively pricey St Saphorin wine with a lesser one. The federal tax office began to investigate the Valais winery for tax fraud. Swiss media began teasing out details and from September to December 2013 the Giroud case made headlines. There was a lull until two weeks ago, when RTS complained loudly that Giroud had manged to get the court to stop two in-depth news reports it was planning to run, without the judge even watching them first, not normal practice in such cases. Giroud and RTS are involved in litigation over earlier reports.
Last week the court said RTS could go ahead and air them. If the earlier reports by RTS, Le Temps newspaper and other media were damning, the latest shows provided a wealth of information about what is being called the “Giroud money flows, accounts used in canton Zug and offshore to hide transactions, what appear to be false bills from Vaud wineries. The amount of money hidden, using Giroud’s two companies, Giroud Vins SA and Weinhandel Edelweiss AG, was reportedly CHF4.2 million. He is reported to owe back taxes and fines of CHF9.5m, according to RTS. Whether or not Giroud will appeal and fight the charges isn’t yet known.
Giroud’s biggest mistake, besides trying to outwit federal tax authorities, may have been his remark that creating fake bills is a common practice in Valais, which has not won him any friends.