Professional cyclists taken to court for tax fraud

Summary

Several professional cyclists and the manager of Pharma-Quickstep could be tried for tax evasion due to the discovery of a complicated tax scheme

Boonen and Devolder hoping for deal

Top cyclist Tom Boonen and Pharma-Quickstep manager Patrick Lefevere are among nine people and two companies due to be tried on charges of tax fraud, according to the public prosecutor of Kortrijk.

“The case concerns systems constructed to keep the income of cyclists hidden from tax authorities,” a spokesperson for the prosecutor said. The sums involved were described as “serious”. Part of the complaint relates to Boonen’s residency status in tax haven Monaco, while in reality he lives in the Kempen area of Flanders.

The investigation dates back to a complaint from 2010 from the Special Investigations office of the economy ministry and concerns tax declarations relating to years prior to that. Boonen (pictured) and a number of other top cyclists, including Stijn Devolder and Jurgen Van Goolen, already reached an agreement with the tax authorities in 2013 involving the payment of large sums of unpaid tax and penalties, intended to avoid prosecution. That is no guarantee, however, that the prosecution will not press charges.

“It is customary in similar fraud cases for the accused to push for a broad settlement,” according to Tom Janssens, a spokesperson for the West Flanders prosecutor, speaking on VRT Radio. “They then reach an agreement with the prosecutor to avoid having the case brought to court.”

Should such an agreement prove impossible to reach, the prosecution said it was ready to bring the case to trial by July at the latest.

Photo by Laurie Beylier/Flickr Commons