French justice minister says Qatar tax breaks must end

Sunday 11/06/2017
End of the road. France’s Justice Minster François Bayrou (L) and Interior Minister Gérard Collomb speak before the start of the weekly Defence Council meeting in Paris, on May 31. (AFP)

Paris - French Justice Minister François Bayrou said France should end tax breaks on property deals granted to countries, in­cluding Qatar, a day after several Arab countries severed ties with the Gulf Arab state.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008 granted Qatari in­vestors exemptions from taxes on profits from the sale of properties in France. Sarkozy is said to have hoped the tax advantages would coax Qatar into substantial mili­tary purchases from France, an end that was not filled although Qatar’s royal family has built a portfolio of assets that includes a Champs- Elysées shopping mall and the Lido cabaret.
“Under the responsibility of Nicolas Sarkozy, France gave Qatar an incredible tax advantage,” Bay­rou told BFM television. “Can this situation continue? I don’t think so. I think it’s very important that in France we have tax fairness.”
During this year’s French election campaign, French President Em­manuel Macron said he wanted to end Qatar’s tax concessions.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, which denounced the move as based on lies about its sup­port of Islamist militants.
“I will be extremely demanding with regard to Qatar and Saudi Ara­bia in terms of foreign affairs and to have full transparency in the role they play in the financing or ac­tions that they could lead with re­gard to terrorist groups that are our enemies,” Macron said during the campaign.
Macron had blamed the “unfair advantages” extended to Qatar on “the lax attitude” of the Sarkozy administration. He also raised the issue of the Qatar tax agreement as part of his pledge to seek “clarifica­tions” from Gulf countries about the financing of extremist groups.
Macron’s and Bayrou’s criticism of Sarkozy’s Qatari tax deal took place against a backdrop of mount­ing criticism of Doha’s “undue” in­fluence in France’s society, econo­my and sports.
(The Arab Weekly staff, with Reuters)