Google's Paris offices were raided by French police this morning, as part of an ongoing investigation into tax evasion and money laundering. French newspaper Le Parisien reports that the operation began at 5AM Tuesday, and that it involved around 100 officials. The French financial prosecutor's office later confirmed the raid to Reuters. The raid was still underway as of Tuesday afternoon in Paris, two sources close to the matter tell The Verge.
"These searches are the result of a preliminary investigation opened on June 16, 2015 relative to aggravated tax fraud and organized money laundering following a complaint from French fiscal authorities," the prosecutor's office said in a statement to the Associated Press. "The investigation is aimed at finding out whether Google Ireland Ltd. is permanently established in France and if, by not declaring some of its activity on French soil, it has failed to meet its fiscal obligations, in particular with regard to corporation tax and value added tax."
French authorities have demanded that Google pay €1.6 billion ($1.8 billion) in back taxes, according to media reports published in February. Google, Apple, and other US tech giants have faced increased scrutiny in Europe over complex fiscal arrangements that lower their tax burdens, but the companies have argued that their tax regimes are within the law.
"We have to abide by tax laws everywhere."
"We're a global company. We have to abide by tax laws everywhere, we do abide by local tax laws in every single country," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said during a visit to Paris earlier this year. "We're advocating strongly for a simpler global tax system," Pichai added.
Google negotiated a deal to pay $185 million in unpaid taxes to British authorities earlier this year, prompting criticism from some who said the amount was far too low. French Finance Minister Michael Sapin has signaled that the government will not negotiate on the amount owed, though the government has not publicly commented on its demands, citing "fiscal confidentiality." Google's Paris headquarters were also raided in 2011, as part of an investigation into transfers to its European headquarters in Dublin.
Google did not provide further details on Tuesday's raid when reached for comment. "We comply with French law and are cooperating fully with the authorities to answer their questions," a spokesperson said in an email statement to The Verge.
Update: May 24th, 10:11AM: This article has been updated to include a statement from the financial prosecutor's office.