How a Swiss billionaire dodged 410M in taxes

How a Swiss billionaire dodged 410M in taxes

Tue, Jan 31st 2023

Why Roger Federer may not be getting along with his Swiss neighbors, how Swiss cities have used FIFA as their bank, and more in our roundup of news from January 24 – 31.

French wine merchant Pierre Castel (Credit:

How one Swiss billionaire dodged millions in taxes

The 12th richest man in Switzerland, wine merchant Pierre Castel, is being asked to pay 410 million Swiss francs in back taxes, according to the Administrative Court of Geneva. Castel, who is originally from France, built the Castel Group with his siblings – comprised of 215 different companies in 40 countries. Castel has lived in Switzerland since 1981 and has failed to report for more than 30 years his dividends through a Liechtenstein foundation and another in Singapore. Moreover, the 96-year-old registered with the tax authorities under his middle name, Jésus, which helped him sidestep many fees. It was only when local media figured out the ruse, that the authorities were alerted. Should the billionaire pay back the sum in total (his estimate worth is 13 to 14 billion CHF) it would wipe out Geneva’s cantonal deficit. Read more.

Just weeks after FIFA President Gianni Infantino returned from heading up the World Cup in Quatar, he had to appear in court. 

Swiss cantons, cities, borrowing money from FIFA

Several Swiss localities have used football association FIFA for loans, according to a new report with Swiss public radio station RTS. Among the recipients are the canton of Neuchâtel (100 million CHF) and Bern (1.8 billion CHF), as well as the cities of Geneva (150 million CHF) and Lausanne (40 million CHF). The loans have been made via a public online platform called Loanbox which connects businesses and government groups with financial institutions such as banks, insurance companies and even, private groups such as FIFA. And while the loans are all legal, some authorities are questioning whether it is a smart choice as FIFA has been entangled in scandal after scandal in recent years. Neuchâtel’s finance minister was quick to point out that “when we raise funds by issuing bonds – which nobody criticizes – we don’t know who is lending us the money in reality.” Read more (In French).

Federer announced earlier this year that he would be retiring from tennis.

Roger Federer: A rocky start with his Swiss neighbors

Months after Swiss athlete Roger Federer announced he would be retiring from the tennis world, he has found himself locked in a different kind of competition with his neighbors in the village of Kempraten in the canton of St. Gallen. Federer is building a lakeside villa there; but, apparently the cantonal authorities have allowed the tennis star to not comply with the local law which allows a public footpath along the water. This has ruffled the feather of his to-be neighbors. “The law applies to everyone, including Roger Federer. It is a massive violation of existing laws,” says Victor von Wartburg, founder of Rives Publiques. Meanwhile, local Sascha Zurcher says “I would never want to build a mansion on an expensive piece of land, where everyone can peek into it. That would be an absolute no-go for me. You can buy anything with money.” Read more.

The man was found in the canton of Schwyz.

Cold case: ‘Missing’ German found living in Switzerland

Swiss police confirmed this week that they have located a German citizen who was presumed dead for the last 18 years by his friends and family. The man and his wife moved to Spain in the early 2000s to start a new business selling cars. He left on a business trip to Munich in 2004 and was never heard from again. German police searched extensively for the man who was eventually presumed dead. Apparently, he has been living and working in the canton of Schwyz since then – all under his same, legal name. He says he has no intention of returning to his family and Swiss police say it is no longer their matter. Read more.

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