DUBLIN Oct 17 Ryanair has rejected a
claim made in Italy that it dodged around 12 million euros
($15.5 million) of social security payments, saying on Wednesday
that it was fully complicit with Irish and European Union tax
Prosecutors in the northern Italian city of Bergamo, where
Ryanair-operated airport Orio al Serio is based, allege the
Irish carrier avoided heavier taxation in Italy by paying lower
pension fees in Ireland for staff flying in and out of Bergamo.
A judicial source with direct knowledge of the investigation
told Reuters that Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary had
been under investigation since June 2010 as the legal
representative of the group.
The criminal case is part of a wider fiscal offensive led by
Italian state pension fund INPS against Ryanair, which has often
been accused by domestic rivals of unfair competitive practices.
Europe's biggest budget airline said on Wednesday that its
workers were covered by EU regulations applicable to mobile
transport workers in respect of their employment, which takes
place on Irish registered aircraft.
It said pilots and cabin crew therefore worked in Ireland
and not in Italy, and pay their taxes and social taxes in
Ireland under these regulations.
"The claims of 'social tax avoidance' made by the Bergamo
prosecutor's office are untrue and will be vigorously defended,"
company spokesman Stephen McNamara said in a statement.
"Similar actions against Ryanair in Belgium, Germany and
Spain have been all unsuccessful with the courts ruling that
Irish jurisdiction applied to Ryanair and its crews."