Serge Dassault barred from office over tax fraud

One of France’s richest men, 91-year-old rightwing senator Serge Dassault, was fined two million euros on Thursday for tax fraud and barred from holding elected office for five years.

The head of aviation and software giant Dassault Group, which owns Le Figaro newspaper, was only spared jail because of his age.

Dassault is France’s third wealthiest person, with a net worth estimated by Forbes magazine of 13.3 billion euros.

A Paris court found him guilty of hiding tens of millions of euros from the taxman in accounts in Liechtenstein and Luxembourg over a period of 15 years. The accounts contained 31 million euros in 2006, a figure that had fallen to 12 million euros in 2014.

The court said “the scale of the fraud, its duration and the political function carried out for a part of the period” would have justified a custodial sentence, had it not been for Dassault’s “great age”.

Dassault announced plans to appeal. He will not be forced to relinquish his senatorial seat — which is up for grabs again in late 2017 — until after the appeal is heard.