Pierre Castel, one of the richest billionaires in the wine industry and founder of world’s third largest wine producer Castel, is being hit with US$416 million tax bill ordered by a Swiss court, according to a Bloomberg report.
The wine scion is being accused of tax evasion between 1982 and 1994 when he exiled France to live in Switzerland in 1981. A Geneva appeals court found that he filed tax returns under first name instead of his more famous last name and ordered him to pay back taxes and fines worth 415 Swiss francs (US$416 million).
Swiss authorities started the investigation in 2017 on suspicions that the Castel residing in Switzerland is in fact he same person who founded Castel, the massive drinks conglomerate. Pierre Castel’s wealth is estimated at US$9.9 billion by Forbes in 2015.
Castel Group now manages 1,400 hectares of vineyards in Bordeaux, Provence, the Loire and Languedoc. Its most famous wine estate is Château Beychevelle. Outside of France, the group has another 1,600 hectares of vineyards in Africa, Tunisia and Ethiopia.
The group sells 4.6 billion bottles of wine a year, and produces 640 million bottles annually, according to Forbes.
According to the report, Castel’s representatives admitted to omitting “certain elements” of his revenue and fortune between 2007 and 2011, the ruling said.
Castel’s team argued that the founder had removed himself from the ownership of the group in 1992, but the court concluded that there was insufficient proof to state Castel is not a beneficiary of a holding company, the sharing of dividends with family members and that dhe did not control the drinks company.
It’s not clear if the wine entrepreneur is going to appeal the decision. He has 30 days to appeal.
But his legal woes seem to be non-stop. The group’s business operation in Africa was probed for alleged links to African militia. Earlier this year, as we have reported Castel is also being investigated in France for alleged wrongdoings in China.