France shocked over stabbing death of tax inspector during routine audit

The French government on Tuesday expressed shock after a tax inspector was stabbed to death as he was trying to audit the books of a business owner in the north of the country.

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The murder victim, a 43-year old civil servant for the tax authorities, was found dead on Monday, killed “most likely by repeated stabbing”, the prosecutors’ office in the northern French city of Arras said.

The suspected killer, a 46-year-old antiquities’ dealer, was then believed to have killed himself with a firearm, it said.

The suspect, described by the local mayor as “an ordinary guy”, locked up the tax inspector and a female colleague during a tax audit of his business, and tied them up, it said.

The Arras chief prosecutor, Sylvain Barbier Sainte-Marie, told reporters Tuesday that the presumed killer may have planned the murder well ahead of the agents’ visit.

Police had found clamps used to tie up the agents “which were probably purchased before the act”, according to the prosecutor.

“Early evidence seems to point to a premeditated act,” he said.

Budget Minister Gabriel Attal said earlier that “the republic is weeping for one of its own”, calling it “revolting” that a public servant was killed “because he did his job”.

The inspector arrived Monday afternoon at the antique dealer’s home, accompanied by a colleague, to check his accounts.

Attal said, usually agents were sent on tax check missions on their own, but this time there was backup because there had been tensions during previous visits to the antique dealer’s business.

Prosecutors said the businessman tied them up and stabbed the inspector, leaving the colleague “terribly shocked” but otherwise unharmed.

A union for tax officials said the case showed that its members had a “potentially dangerous” job.

The dealer, a divorced father of two, moved four years ago to the hamlet of Bullecourt, its mayor Eric Bianchin told AFP.

He bought a farm from where he sold bric-a-brac which he picked up at auctions and yard sales around the area.

He was “an ordinary guy”, the mayor said, describing him as “helpful, and well-integrated in the village” of some 250 people.

A neighbour, Geoffrey Fournier, described the presumed killer as “discreet” and “apparently hard-working”, whose business “seemed to be doing OK”.

The French parliament observed a minute of silence in memory of the tax inspector.

On Wednesday there will be ceremonies in regional tax centres in his honour, Attal said.

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