A search was carried out Thursday morning at the headquarters of Optical Center as part of a preliminary investigation opened since October 2021, in particular for organized gang tax evasion and money laundering, said the Paris prosecutor’s office, confirming information from the World and of franceinfo. Seven people were also taken into custody, a source familiar with the matter told AFP, adding that the group’s CEO, Laurent Lévy, who has been living in Israel since 2005, was not among those arrested.
Suspicions of false invoice system
According to the two media, the ophthalmology group is suspected of having set up a system of false invoices and overvalued services to significantly reduce the amount of its taxes. Companies, for the benefit of Laurent Lévy, would have been created, in particular in Israel and Hong Kong, to receive the funds concealed from the French tax authorities. According The world200 million euros of suspicious financial flows would have been identified between 2018 and 2020.
The investigation, entrusted to the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption and Financial Crimes (OCLCIFF) and the National Brigade for the Repression of Tax Crime (BNRDF), was opened after a report from Tracfin, the financial intelligence unit de Bercy, according to the close source.
650 stores worldwide
The investigations relate to several offences: tax evasion in an organized gang, money laundering, usually committed, of property or funds derived from this offence, misuse of the property or credit of a joint-stock company by a manager for personal purposes carried out or facilitated by the interposition of a person established abroad.
Also covered are tax evasion carried out or facilitated by an account opened or a contract entered into with an organization established abroad, the inaccurate or fictitious entry in an accounting document and the non-disclosure to the prosecution of criminal acts by statutory auditor of a legal entity. A major optical and hearing brand created in 1991 by Laurent Lévy, Optical center has 650 stores, including 43 in several European countries, Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom, according to the group’s website.