Police have frozen some NIS 100 million in the account of a French citizen residing in Israel, who is suspected of involvement in defrauding the tax authorities of France. The account of Aaron Cohen was frozen as part of an undercover investigation jointly run by the Israeli and French police for the past year.
The two police forces are investigating suspicions against a large group of French businessmen, some of them of Jewish origin, who are believed to have been avoiding value-added tax on international trade in the offset market for greenhouse gases. Some of the suspects have been detained in France.
The French tax authorities' investigation unit sent two investigators to Israel a few weeks ago, to meet with their colleagues in the international serious crime investigations unit. The French journal "Intelligence Online" reported that the investigating magistrate Guillaume Daieff from the French Supreme Court's economic division is in charge of the investigation.
The investigation is focusing on Netanel, a company registered in Hong Kong. Its directors and other employees are suspected of using the differences in taxing systems between France and countries where they purchased rights to greenhouse gases. While France taxes the greenhouse gas offsetting trade, no VAT was imposed on the deals where the gas rights were purchased. The French authorities suspect that the owners of Netanel pocketed the difference, amounting to some 200 million euros.
The suspects are also believed to have moved the takings into Israeli banks accounts, including, allegedly, that of Aaron Cohen. Cohen's attorney, Yehezkell Beinisch, told Haaretz that his client denies all the allegations. Beinisch said Cohen was a businessman in the shoemaking trade in the Far East, which is how he got to know some of the suspects. He said Cohen had no connection to trading in greenhouse gases or to the Netanel company, and that he asked the prosecution service to unfreeze his client's assets.
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