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25/11/2014 PROFILE > Tout public

False repertoires and crimes: the imagination of crooks is without limit

Let's look at the case of Michelin as an example, which was robbed of 1.6 million euros by the "chairman crime" method, and is the most recent example.

One of the most ingenious cons consists, and has done for several years and still today, of making novice business managers believe that a certain number of formalities are compulsory, that entries on a listing are essential, to force them to pay amounts of money which, generally, amount to 200 to 300 euros excluding tax, but which may reach close to 1,000 euros per annum.

For several years, many company founders have fallen victim to crime soon after having declared the establishment of their business.

Many receive letters from companies with the acronym RCS (Trade and Companies Register) making them believe it is from the official Register.

They ask them to pay additional amounts for registration.

Young company directors have been conned out of several hundred euros, and are asking how their personal data could be collected by these unofficial companies which are flourishing.

The response is unfortunately simple : the contact information for company directors has been obtained in the most legal manner possible.

This can be obtained free of charge from the BODACC website but also the directory of French companies which sells the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in France; the SIRENE file of the INSEE is the most exhaustive: it lists all creations of companies, including artisans, traders, liberals and self-employed.

It is also possible to obtain from Infogreffe the list of all companies which are entered on the Trade and Companies Register.

Once information is collected, the method of operating is approximately identical.

These unofficial con artists use hook words such as register, Kbis, listing and subscription forms which are very similar so as to be misleading by being similar to those which are compulsory as issued by official administrations or bodies such as the URSSAF or RSI.

These forms include, depending on the case, deadlines for payment, precise contact details of the company, sometimes a barcode, tricolores, a Marianne logo, a perforated slip for response and issue of the payment.

For any new company director receiving this document, it is clear that registration is compulsory and it is an additional contribution to be paid.

Some of these unofficial con artists prey on companies under difficulty asking that they contribute towards a register for companies under administration subject to being struck off if they do not make payment within 8 days!

To parody Audiard, it could be said that "crooks dare all, this is how they can be recognised".

Some of these unofficial bodies, certainly well advised, even indicate in their general terms and conditions of sale on the reverse, in small print, that it is an optional publicity offer, which has nothing at all to do with the Trade and Companies Register or Infogreffe.

Some of them have prestigious registered offices, just a stone's throw from the Elysée Palace for instance.

Others prefer to take up residence in southern Spain or Belize.

Some disappear and are then re-established under another name in another geographical region.

To date there are tens of false listing and bodies which have been observed and sentenced, often at the initiative of supervision and tracking by Clerks to the Commercial Courts.

The Criminal Courts are referred these matters and many legal decisions have now been handed down, with heavy sentences being pronounced.

These unofficial con artists, if they have not been liquidated, and their managers are more often sentenced for crime or misleading commercial practices.

However, when these matters are presented to the Judge, the harm has already been done; there are thousands of company directors who have incorrectly paid amounts which they believe are compulsory and the turnover made by these crooks exceeds several hundreds of thousands of euros, often several million euros.

The National Council of Clerks to the Commercial Courts and GIE Infogreffe are automatically involved alongside entrepreneurs who have decided to file suit to claim compensation.

Only information about these practices, and wide scale publicity of the legal rulings handed down (when definitive) will allow for a reduction in the number of crimes, but it is to fear that company directors will still be surprised by the ingenuity of these crooks.

This column was published on 06 November 2014 on the website of the Huffington Post.