Apple Reaches Agreement On French Back Taxes

 

Apple has reached an agreement with French authorities over 10 years of back taxes, the US firm told AFP on Tuesday, confirming information published by the French magazine L’Express.

The magazine reported that the firm paid nearly 500 million euros ($570 million) to resolve the case in a confidential settlement reached in December.

“The French tax administration recently concluded a multi-year audit on the company’s French accounts and an adjustment will be published in our public accounts,” Apple told AFP.

The company declined to disclose the amount paid, but a source familiar with the case confirmed to AFP the sum of nearly 500 million euros reported by L’Express.

“We know the important role taxes play in society and we pay our taxes in all the countries where we operate, in complete conformity with laws and practices in force at the local level,” added the company.

French authorities declined to comment citing the confidentiality of tax matters.

According to L’Express, the deal followed several months of talks between Apple and French tax authorities and concerned the small amount of revenue the firm booked in France while the sales it reported in Europe ballooned, thanks in particular to iPhone sales.

L’Express said Apple’s European revenues exploded seven-fold, from 6.6 billion euros in 2008 to 47.7 billion in 2017, and most of it was booked in Ireland where the US firm has its European headquarters.

Ireland has low corporate tax rates that have attracted many multinationals, but there are widespread concerns that firms manipulate accounting rules to escape paying revenues in European countries where taxes are higher.

The French deal with Apple follows one with Amazon, which agreed to pay $252 million (202 million euros) to cover back taxes for the years 2006 to 2010.

The French government is also pushing to impose a tax on digital firms and is expected to unveil legislation later this month that would raise 500 million euros this year.

Indonesia Recaptures French Drug Suspect After Jailbreak

Frenchman Felix Dorfin (R) is under escort after escaping from jail in Mataram on the holiday island of Lombok on February 2, 2019,/ AFP

 

A French drug suspect on the run since escaping from an Indonesian jail nearly two weeks ago has been recaptured, police said on Saturday.

Felix Dorfin — who faces the death penalty if convicted — was found hiding in a forest in North Lombok on Friday night, police said, and was returned to jail in Mataram, capital of the island.

Wearing dishevelled black clothes and looking tired, Dorfin initially tried to bribe officers to let him go.

“He didn’t resist arrest, but wanted to bribe our officers,” North Lombok police chief Herman Suriyono said Saturday, adding he was found following a tip-off from locals in the area.

After being checked by medical teams he was returned to jail.

The 35-year-old Frenchman was arrested in September allegedly carrying a false-bottomed suitcase filled with four kilogrammes (8.8 pounds) of drugs — including cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines — at the airport on the holiday island next to Bali.

On Friday officials said a female police officer had been arrested for allegedly helping Dorfin escape in exchange for Rp 14.5 million (around $1,000).

Jailbreaks are common in Indonesia, where corruption is endemic at all levels of society and inmates often held in squalid and poorly guarded prisons.

In 2017, four foreign inmates tunnelled their way out of Bali’s Kerobokan prison.

Two of them were captured a few days later, but an Australian and Malaysian are still at large.

Macron Calls For ‘Humane Solutions’ To Rescue Migrants Stranded Off Italy

A video grab taken from a footage released by France Televisions on December 25, 2018 shows France’s president Emmanuel Macron (L) gesturing as he speaks during a special program dedicated to French soldiers at the military airbase in N’Djamena, on December 25, 2018.
Handout / FRANCE TELEVISIONS / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday there is a need for “humane solutions” to rescue operations in the Mediterranean, citing the case of 47 migrants stranded off Italy’s coast.

Macron called for the group saved on January 19 to be disembarked in the nearest port “in Italy”, which has so far refused to allow the NGO-run rescue ship to dock.

Speaking in Cyprus during a leaders’ summit, Macron pushed for countries to share responsibility for the migrants and said France would play its part.

French Police Claim Shooting Of Christmas Market Gunman

An armed gendarme stands guard at Strasbourg’s Christmas market, on its reopening day, on December 14, 2018, one day after French police shot dead the gunman who killed three people there. Photo: Patrick HERTZOG / AFP

 

The gunman who killed three people at a Christmas market in Strasbourg was shot dead by French police on Thursday as the Islamic State jihadist group claimed him as one of its “soldiers”.

More than 700 French security forces had been hunting for 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt since the bloodshed on Tuesday night — the latest in a string of jihadist attacks to rock France.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said three police tried to question Chekatt after spotting him on the street in the Neudorf area of the northeastern French city where he grew up, but he opened fire.

“They immediately returned fire and neutralized the assailant,” Castaner said.

A source close to the investigation said a woman spotted a man fitting Chekatt’s description with a wounded arm on Thursday afternoon and alerted authorities, who sealed off the area and used a helicopter with thermal cameras to hunt for the suspect.

People gathered at the police cordon where Chekatt was shot and applauded, some shouting “Bravo!”, a source said.

“It’s really a huge relief,” said Alain Fontanel, a local official in the mayor’s office, describing the anxiety that locals had felt since Tuesday’s attack.

“We didn’t really feel very safe,” one 18-year-old local named Arthur told AFP.

 Watchlist

The propaganda wing of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack.

The perpetrator of “the attack in the city of Strasbourg is one of the soldiers of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in response to calls to target nationals of the coalition” against IS, the Amaq agency said in a message posted on Twitter.

Chekatt, who lived in a rundown apartment block a short drive from the city center, was flagged by French security forces in 2015 as a possible Islamic extremist.

France has been hit by a wave of attacks from people claiming allegiance to Al Qaeda or IS since 2015, which have claimed the lives of nearly 250 people, according to an AFP toll.

It is also not the first time a Christmas market has been targeted in Europe.

In 2016, a jihadist attacked a Christmas market in Berlin and went on the run through the Netherlands and France before being shot and killed three days later in northern Italy.

Defiant local authorities insisted the Strasbourg Christmas market would reopen as usual on Friday.

 Career criminal 

Chekatt was believed to have been wounded after exchanging fire with soldiers during the attack, but managed to escape and had not been seen since fleeing the scene on Tuesday.

Police in several other countries had joined the hunt for the career criminal with at least 27 convictions in four European states.

Officers who had already detained Chekatt’s parents and two brothers on Wednesday took a fifth person into custody for questioning on Thursday.

French President Emmanuel Macron thanked security forces in a tweet and vowed: “Our commitment against terrorism is total.”

He earlier expressed “the solidarity of the whole country” towards the victims.

“It is not only France that has been hit… but a great European city as well,” he added, referring to the seat of the European Parliament in the eastern French city that lies on the border with Germany.

Strasbourg’s location in the heart of western Europe means that Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg can be easily reached by car or train, making the search for Chekatt more complicated.

Swiss police had reinforced border checks, while German authorities also widely published the photo of the suspect, which showed him with dark hair, a short beard and a mark on his forehead.

Plea to ‘yellow vests

As police hunted Chekatt, the French government urged “yellow vest” protesters angry over French economic reforms not to hold another round of demonstrations this weekend, given the strain on the country’s security forces.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux called on the anti-government protesters to be “reasonable” after nearly four weeks of often violent demonstrations that have led the government to offer a range of financial relief to low earners.

“Our security forces have been deployed extensively these past few weeks,” Griveaux told CNews television.

“It would be better if everyone could go about their business calmly on Saturday, before the year-end celebrations with their families, instead of demonstrating and putting our security forces to work once again.”

The yellow-vest protesters, known for their fluorescent high-visibility jackets, had called for a fifth round of protests this Saturday.

The protests began on November 17 over fuel tax increases but snowballed into a revolt over living standards as well as Macron’s perceived indifference to the problems of ordinary citizens.

AFP

France To Cut Public Spending Despite Fuel Tax Suspension

French Finance and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire (C) gives a press conference following his meeting with employers and professional organizations at the Economy Ministry in Paris on December 3, 2018. ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Tuesday said France would stick to its EU commitments to slash public spending despite a decision to suspend a fuel tax to quell fierce protests.

“There is a course set by the French President Emmanuel Macron, which is to respect our European commitments, reduce spending, reduce debt and reduce taxes, and that course will be maintained,” Le Maire told journalists in Brussels.

AFP

French Govt To Freeze Electricity, Gas Price Hikes After Protests

President of France Emmanuel Macron. John Moore/Getty Images/AFP

The French government plans to freeze upcoming increases on regulated electricity and gas prices in the wake of protests over rising costs of living, lawmakers in the ruling Republic on the Move party said.

Stricter vehicle emission controls set to kick in in January 2019 will also be suspended, one of the demands of the “yellow vest” movement which erupted last month, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told lawmakers before a televised address later on Tuesday.

AFP

 

French Govt Holds Crisis Talks After ‘Yellow Vest’ Riots

French President Emmanuel Macron (C) sits in front of French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (back) during a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on December 2, 2018, a day after clashes between police and yellow vest protesters. STEPHANE MAHE / POOL / AFP

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe holds talks with party leaders on Monday as Paris scrambles to forge a response to violence by anti-government protesters that has left hundreds injured nationwide and caused widespread destruction around the capital.

The talks follow a crisis meeting chaired by French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday as he surveyed the damage from a day of riots across Paris that saw violence “on a level not seen in decades.”

Philippe has been asked to meet protest organizers and party leaders as part of a “constant wish for dialogue,” the Elysee Palace said.

Environment Minister Francois de Rugy met representatives of the so-called “yellow vest” protesters last week but failed to convince them to end the demonstrations that have taken place over the last two weeks.

The government has not ruled out imposing a state of emergency to combat the protests, which began over fuel taxes but have morphed into a broad opposition front to Macron, 40, a pro-business centrist elected in May 2017.

The president on Sunday assessed the damage at the Arc de Triomphe, the massive monument to France’s war dead at the top of the Champs-Elysees avenue, where rioters scrawled graffiti and ransacked the ticketing and reception areas.

Inside, rioters smashed in the iconic face of a sculpture, a partial reproduction of the frieze “La Marseillaise” by Francois Rude.

Macron also saw the wreckage of burnt-out cars and damaged buildings from rioting at other sites, where he praised the police but was also booed by sections of the crowd.

Paris police said 412 people were arrested on Saturday during the worst clashes for years in the capital and 378 remained in custody.

Paris police chief Michel Delpuech said the violence had been “on a level not seen in decades.”

A total of 263 people were injured nationwide, including 133 in the capital, 23 of the members of the security forces.

“I will never accept violence,” Macron said. “No cause justifies that authorities are attacked, that businesses are plundered, that passers-by or journalists are threatened or that the Arc du Triomphe is defiled.”

The violence has caused deep concern in the French business community which claims it has already lost billions of euros, and representatives are set to attend a meeting at the economy ministry on Monday.

“Our worst fears have been confirmed: this is the third consecutive weekend of (protest) blockades which amount to a major loss for the whole business community,” Jacques Creyssel, representative of a federation of retail businesses, told AFP.

 ‘Yellow vests will win’ 

Three people have died in incidents linked to the anti-government protests, which were sparked initially by a rise in taxes on diesel.

In Paris on Sunday as groups of workers set about cleaning up the mess from the previous day, the scale of the destruction became clear.

Around famous areas including the Champs-Elysees, the Louvre museum, the Opera and Place Vendome, smashed shop windows, broken glass and the occasional burnt-out car was a testament to the violence.

Dozens of cars were torched by the gangs of rioters, some of whom wore gas masks and ski goggles to lessen the effects of police tear gas.

One person was in a critical condition after protesters pulled down one of the huge iron gates of the Tuileries garden by the Louvre, crushing several people.

Nearly 190 fires were put out and six buildings were set alight, the interior ministry said.

Graffiti was daubed at the Arc de Triomphe, with one slogan saying: “The yellow vests will win.”

State of emergency?

Some 136,000 people joined demonstrations nationwide on Saturday, most of them peaceful, the interior ministry said.

The figure was well below the first day of protests on November 17, which attracted around 282,000 people, and also down on the revised figure of 166,000 who turned out last Saturday.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner attributed the violence to “specialists in destruction”.

Referring to the possibility of imposing a state of emergency — a demand made by the police union Alliance — Castaner declared: “Nothing is taboo for me. I am prepared to examine everything.”

 ‘We won’t change course’ 

Macron faces a dilemma over how to respond, not least because the “yellow vests” are a grassroots movement with no formal leaders and a wide range of demands.

“We have said that we won’t change course. Because the course is good,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told BFM television defiantly on Sunday morning.

Jacline Mouraud, one of the protest movement’s prime instigators over social media forums, told AFP that scrapping the fuel tax was a “prerequisite for any discussion” with the government.

Macron insists the taxes are needed to fund the country’s transition to a low-emission economy.

AFP

French Ex-Minister Cleared Of Raping Two Former Employees

 

A French court on Thursday acquitted former government minister Georges Tron of raping two employees during foot-massaging sessions in his office.

Tron, who served as junior minister for the civil service, was forced to resign in 2011 over the allegations made by two women who worked for him at the town hall of the southern Paris suburb of Draveil.

The women accused Tron, who is mayor of Draveil, and his former deputy, Brigitte Gruel, of abusing them during foot reflexology sessions in Tron’s office between 2007 and 2010 that turned into threesomes.

After a four-week trial Tron and Gruel, both aged 61, were acquitted of the charges.

Virginie Ettel, 41, and Eva Loubrieu, 44, testified that they felt powerless to resist being groped and penetrated digitally by Tron because they were afraid of losing their jobs. They said Gruel took part in some of the sessions.

Ettel later resigned, while Loubrieu was fired after being accused of theft.

Reacting to the verdict, Ettel expressed “huge disappointment” and said: “I will not give up the battle I have been fighting for years.”

The prosecution, which had called for Tron to be given a six-year prison sentence, has 10 days to appeal.

Tron, who practices reflexology as a hobby, and Gruel had denied the allegations, claiming they were part of a political smear campaign.

The accusations emerged days after Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former French head of the International Monetary Fund was arrested in New York in May 2011 on charges of attempting to rape a hotel maid.

The criminal case against Strauss-Kahn later fell apart and he settled the civil case out of court.

But the affair had a knock-on effect in France, leading several women to break their silence about alleged harassment or assault by politicians and other public figures.

AFP

French Minister Pulls Out Of Saudi Conference over Khashoggi

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire speaks during a session of questions to the government at the French National Assembly in Paris on October 17, 2018.
Eric FEFERBERG / AFP

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday he was pulling out of a major investment conference in Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“I won’t go to Riyadh next week,” Le Maire told France’s Public Senat TV channel, adding that “the current circumstances do not allow me to go to Riyadh”.

The minister echoed President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks last week on Khashoggi’s disappearance, calling it a “very serious” matter.

“The important thing now is that the full truth of this affair is known,” said Le Maire, who said he informed his Saudi counterpart on Wednesday of his decision.

Khashoggi, who was living in self-imposed exile in the United States where he contributed to the Washington Post, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

He was critical of some of Saudi Arabia’s policies.

Turkish officials claim he was killed and dismembered in the consulate by a hit squad which arrived from Riyadh — claims denied by the Saudi government.

Le Maire’s decision to pull out of the October 23-25 Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh — dubbed the “Davos in the Desert” — follows that of International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde.

The IMF said Wednesday that Lagarde had “deferred” her trip to the Middle East, without giving an explanation.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he will decide on Thursday whether to attend.

Several Western business titans and media groups have already pulled out of the conference organized by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Like other Western allies of the world’s biggest oil exporter, France had embraced Saudi Arabia’s powerful new de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as a reformer.

Macron hosted the 33-year-old prince for a private dinner at the Louvre museum when he visited Paris in April.

Saudi Arabia was the second-biggest purchaser of French weapons between 2008 and 2017, after India, signing deals for some 12 billion euros ($13.8 billion) in French weaponry.

AFP

French Rugby Season Kicks Off With Emotional Ceremony For Dead Player

People applaud prior to the French Pro D2 rugby union match between Stade Aurillac and Oyonnax on August 19, 2018 at the Jean Alric stadium in Aurillac, central France, as a tribute to Louis Fajfrowski who died during a second division friendly match on August 10, 2018.
PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

 

The emotion was tangible on Sunday as French club Aurillac kicked off their league season with a tribute to Louis Fajfrowski, who died after a collision in a pre-season game.

There was a minute’s applause for the player, who died on August 10, before the home game against Oyonnax and fans unveiled a banner saying: “Always in our hearts.”

The game was originally scheduled for Friday but was switched to avoid a clash with the funeral.

There was also a minute’s applause in the other opening-round games in the division in tribute to both Fajfrowski and Pierre Camou, the ex-president of the French rugby federation, who died on Wednesday.

In the warm-ups in Aurillac, the home team wore shirts bearing Fajfrowski’s name and number, 14. For the match, they wore shirts embroidered with the initials “LF,” which the team plans to sport all season.

Andre Bester, Aurillac’s South African coach, has hung a portrait of Fajfrowski in the player tunnel saying: “It’s so they keep him in mind all year, each time they run onto the pitch.”

His girlfriend Margot and younger brother Paul kicked off the game on Sunday.

Fajfrowski, a 21-year old back came off in a game against Rodez on August 10 after what spectators described as a routine rugby tackle, but he then collapsed in the dressing room and died.

The post-mortem last Monday did not find a specific cause of death but further tests are being carried out.

In the game on Sunday, Aurillac raced to a 20-6 halftime lead against opponents relegated from Pro 14 at the end of last season and held on to win 20-19 on a draining afternoon.

Macron Thanks French Team After World Cup Win

EU Door Stays Open To UK Until Brexit Concluded - Macron
Credit: politico.eu.com

President Emmanuel Macron, whose enthusiasm soared with each goal as France marched toward World Cup victory on Sunday, expressed his thanks to the young team on Twitter after congratulating the players on the pitch in Moscow.

“MERCI” Macron wrote in a one-word tweet after the match, which gave France its second World Cup victory and sparked euphoric street parties across the country.

Military Helicopter Crashes In Cote d’Ivoire, Kills One

Ivory Coast Map

 

A French military helicopter crashed in Ivory Coast while on a training mission, killing the pilot and seriously wounding a second crew member, the French army said on Wednesday.

The Gazelle helicopter came down about 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of the Ivorian commercial capital, Abidjan.

“The cause of the accident is still to be determined,” the French army said in a statement.

Both helicopter crews were transferred to a French military base at Port Bouet, where the pilot died. The other crewman is being airlifted to France for further treatment, the army said.