Uber Europe GM Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty and Uber France CEO Thibaud Simphal were both taken into custody Monday in Paris according to AFP News. The police started an investigation of Uber in November 2014 and raided their Paris offices in March. But the arrests came after Paris police failed to intervene last week as French taxi union thugs trashed Uber cars and threatened passengers.
According to the Paris prosecutor, both executives were taken into custody and questioned regarding “illicit activity” that may include violating two separate laws:
- Running an illegal taxi service: Uber has been sideways with the law in many countries over avoiding regulatory compliance, liability for drivers’ actions and employee taxes for operating as a taxi service. In 2010, the company changed its founding name from Uber Cab to Uber.
- Concealing digital documents: Police told AFP upon raiding the Uber France offices in March, some documents are missing, which has slowed down the pace of the investigation.
The arrest followed violent protests on June 25 of the French union for taxi drivers against Uber’s lowest cost service called “UberPOP.” Police said there was no connection to the protest by the taxi union, but the investigation only picked up steam when the union-sponsored protest resulted in 70 UberPOP cars being vandalized and some being flipped over and burned, according to Tech Crunch.
U.S. rock singer Courtney Love Cobain, who was caught up in the protests as an Uber passenger, criticized French President François Hollande, claiming she would have been safer in Baghdad than in Paris. In successive tweets, she expressed, “How on earth are these people allowed to do this? the first car was destroyed, all tires slashed” and “paid some guys on motorcycles to sneak us out, got chased by a mob of taxi drivers who threw rocks, passed two police and they did nothing.”
UberPOP was launched in February 2014 as a discount line to “UberX,” which is the equivalent of its sister Uber in the U.S. UberPOP drivers are not required to have any professional licenses and can be enrolled on the same day. Taxi drivers fear the extreme discount service is a form of unfair competition. UberPOP has been banned in Belgium, the Netherlands, and France at the end of last year.
French police has been issuing fines to UberPOP drivers for the last six months. But in the ultimate marketing ploy, Uber has been paying for the fine. The discount service has recently been rolling out in other cities across France, generating lots of new demand and undermining traditional taxi services and their union drivers.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve responded to the violence last week by setting up a task force of 200 police officers to stop and fine UberPOP drivers. President François Hollande made a public statement saying that independently owned cars picking up UberPOP customers could also be seized by the police.
Uber told the Tech Crunch blog:
Our CEO for France and General Manager for TechCrunch Western Europe were invited to a police hearing this afternoon; following this interview, they were taken into custody. We are always available to answer all the questions on our service, and available to the authorities to solve any problem that could come up. Talks are in progress. In the meantime, we keep working in order to make sure that both our customers and drivers are safe following last week’s turmoils.