“The value of Russian assets frozen in France amounts to 1.2 billion euros”, Guillaume Valette-Valla (Tracfin)

LA TRIBUNE – What are the main lessons from Tracfin’s latest activity report, just revealed?

WILLIAM VALETTE-VALLA – In 2021, service activity remains at a high level. This activity is characterized by the collection of data, in particular suspicious transaction reports from professionals subject to due diligence obligations to fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The amount of information received by the service increased by almost 50% between 2020 and 2021. The number of notes made by Tracfin for its partners increased by almost 10% in 2021.

The panorama of Tracfin’s partners is wide, reflecting the scope of the department’s missions. Our notes are addressed to the judicial authorities but also to the administrations in charge of the fight against fraud, the foreign financial intelligence units and our partners in the intelligence community. Our three priority missions are the fight against economic and financial crime, the fight against fraud in public finances, intelligence that contributes to the national security strategy and the defense of the country’s basic interests. .

Tracfin has been called upon for other tasks in recent years. How is your workforce progressing?

Tracfin has a staff of 200 people, the number of agents has increased by 65% ​​since 2017, the amount of information received has doubled in the same period. We have experienced tremendous growth in recent years. Certain events such as the Covid crisis and fraud in economic support schemes or the war between Russia and Ukraine have contributed to the increase in demand for our services.

In your last report, you pointed out several frauds in the personal training account (CPF). How are they identified?

These patterns of fraud have evolved over time. CPF frauds are done by petty fraudsters in 2020 and the beginning of the year 2021. Before they were simple frauds. Some companies pretend to be training organizations when they are actually a scam. We also see a lot of identity theft. As of mid-2021, it won’t be the same kind of fraud or the same kind of fraudsters.

Currently, the files managed by our services reveal a greater complexity thanks to the shell companies that were created and disappeared shortly after receiving public funds for training. The department’s cooperation with our foreign counterparts is necessary to monitor international financial flows and is a guarantee of the effectiveness of the mechanism to combat such fraud.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many aids have been put in place to support the economy (partial unemployment, solidarity funds, loans guaranteed by the State). What is the extent of fraud in all these tools?

Tracfin will not know the full extent of the fraud. We can only see part of the fraud. The estimate of the total amount of fraud is equivalent to a “dark number”. This is a number that cannot be calculated precisely. It is basically an evaluation.

Contrary to what one might think at the start of the pandemic, fraud in emergency aid devices is limited. Various acts of the Court of Auditors show that this fraud has been prevented. We also see more traditional fraud in energy saving certificates. These frauds rely on the more structured networks that come with these devices in order to illegally take taxpayers’ money. It is very difficult to get an accurate amount of fraud. On the other hand, what can be said is that the easier it is to access a device, the easier it is for the fraudster to fit this device.

What methods do you use to identify them?

In fraud related to emergency measures, we make Tracfin reporting professionals, such as banking establishments, or non-financial sector professionals who know the abnormal movements involved, for example , to create and close fictitious companies. .

Within the State and public administrations, an organization has been established with the DGFiP, the ASP (Services and Payment Agency) and the Caisse des dépôts. This cooperation enables a rapid exchange of information between administrations to prevent the payment of aid to criminal organizations. In CPF, many files have been sent to justice or are in the process of judgment.

Do you know fraud in the context of a recovery plan?

Yes, we have found fraud in the context of state-guaranteed loans, for example. These acts can only be qualified as fraud from the last payment installments that qualify the companies. However, the deadlines will be qualified only in June 2024. For a violation to be qualified as fraud, the company benefiting from the PGEs must not pay them. Other criteria must also be considered to qualify these failures as fraud.

Partial unemployment fraud: prison terms for two fraudsters who stole several hundred thousand euros

In 2021, the Pandora Papers once again revealed the fraudulent practices of tax evasion executives. Despite the proliferation of international investigations and the complexity of investigative procedures, tax evasion still exists. How do you explain this paradox?

Tracfin does not need the administration best placed to deal with this phenomenon, unlike DGFiP. Now, the event continues. There is always someone, a malicious organization that wants to cheat the law. However, the situation has changed significantly in the last decade. Tax administration tools have clearly improved. This makes it possible to better deal with fraud cases.

Internationally, the topics revolve around tax optimization and less tax avoidance. The tax rates of some foreign companies in the new economy often provoke public opinion. This is more often tax optimization than fraud. There is a lot of confusion between tax avoidance and tax optimization at the legal level. Thanks to Tracfin’s investigative resources and its network of counterparts abroad, it is possible to obtain important information and pass it on to the courts. Tax evasion remains a topic of interest for Tracfin but from the point of view of our services, we cannot say that it is an explosive phenomenon.

Tax fraud: 7.8 billion euros caught by tax authorities in 2020

After the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Bercy announced on March 1 the establishment of a task force that brings together Tracfin, the General Directorate of Public Finance (DGFiP) and customs. What conclusions can you draw from these first months of action? What is the value of frozen assets in Russia?

The amount of frozen assets amounts to approximately 1.2 billion euros, excluding those of the central bank of Russia. These are financial and non-financial assets. These freezes are based on a European regulation that establishes a list of people adopted by Brussels. This mission activates Bercy’s services in the first quarter of 2022.

The priority is to provide data to our political authorities who defend the proposals of Brussels based on the lists of assets held in France.

What does your current job consist of?

Now, our job is to check that there is no risk of circumvention. When the assets are frozen, we try to check if people do not try to avoid the measures through family relays, relatives or tax optimization mechanisms.

Since May, Tracfin has returned to more normal activity. From the data collected, we tried to see if we could not send files to justice in the context of files on the laundering of illicit assets produced in France, the laundering of those who have not obtained profit based on acts of corruption. We are small in the search for administrative freezing but we contribute to the nurturing of justice. It must be able to legally seize and confiscate property that is unlawfully detained. The people mentioned in this list drawn up by the European Union are not deprived of their property.

In French law, they can only be done by a judge’s decision. This is to identify criminal fraud. For example, we tried to see if the property became the subject of a crime or an offense punishable in France, especially if it was a tax evasion or if the property of a Russian oligarch became an object hidden or international traffic.

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