Nina Ricci Heir Convicted of Tax Fraud After HSBC Leaks

Associated Press
Ricci's lawyer, Jean-Marc Fedida, addresses reporters after Monday's verdict.

Arlette Ricci was sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay heavy fines and back taxes in the first ruling involving a famous name in the scandal.

PARIS — The heiress of the fashion and perfume house Nina Ricci was sentenced Monday to a year in prison and ordered to pay heavy fines and back taxes for hiding millions of euros in HSBC bank accounts in Switzerland.

The ruling was the first involving a famous name in the so-called Swissleaks scandal in which a former HSBC employee gave authorities thousands of names of suspected tax evaders. Other trials are expected to follow.

A Paris court convicted Arlette Ricci, 73, granddaughter of designer Nina Ricci, of tax evasion and money-laundering and sentenced her to three years in prison, with two of them suspended. The court ordered a 1 million euro ($1.1 million) fine and the confiscation of two properties worth 4 million euros.

Ricci's lawyer, Jean-Marc Fedida, told reporters that he is deciding whether to appeal and that he might instead ask a judge to let her serve the prison term under less strict conditions, such as partial liberty or wearing an electronic bracelet.

In a separate part of the case, the court ordered Ricci, a lawyer and two companies to pay millions in back taxes for the period of 2007-2009. The court did not set the amount of the payment, saying that would be worked out at a later date.

Arlette Ricci's daughter, Margot Vignat, 51, also was convicted and given an eight-month suspended sentence. In addition to the other fines, Vignat and Ricci were ordered to pay 100,000 euros in damages to the French government.

Ricci was one of thousands of suspected tax evaders on the original list of accounts leaked to French tax authorities in 2008 by former employee Herve Falciani. France shared the list with other governments and launched investigations.

Last week, French authorities placed London-based HSBC under formal criminal investigation over alleged tax fraud by its Swiss private bank. The bank said the claim was "without legal basis."