By Nick Divito
MANHATTAN (CN) – John Malkovich took to Federal Court Friday to deny a Parisian newspaper’s reports that he avoided taxes by keeping a secret bank account and linked him to the global tax-evasion “SwissLeaks” scandal.
The twice Oscar-nominated actor filed two lawsuits in Paris criminal court last week against the French daily Le Monde, an editor and three journalists for statements made about him in two articles published in February that he says were defamatory.
The French newspaper claimed alleged Malkovich held an account with HSBC in Switzerland to evade taxes.
He is asking a federal judge in New York to grant him leave to conduct discovery on CBS News, which allegedly assisted Le Monde in preparing its stories.
In a declaration filed in Federal Court on Friday, Malkovich says the CBS News magazine “60 Minutes” helped Le Monde prepaare the stories by seeking to verify its claims related to U.S. citizens, including the actor.
“When contacted by CBS journalist Ira Rosen regarding his alleged role in SwissLeaks, Malkovich denied both allegations,” according to his 7-page declaration.
“Nevertheless, the Le Monde Defendants proceeded to impugn Malkovich’s reputation by falsely labeling him a tax cheat. The defamatory statements were picked up by other media outlets thereby exacerbating the damage to his reputation,” the court documents say.
The “Dangerous Liaisons” actor wants to obtain communications between the newspaper’s reporters and a producer at “60 Minutes” that he says will clear his name.
“I have never had an account with HSBC, much less sought to use such an account to avoid the payment of income taxes,” he wrote. “My only connection to HSBC, if it can even be called that, is that I maintained an account with Republic National Bank of New York (Suisse) S.A. between 1996 and 1999.
“There was nothing secret about this account, which was in my own name and used my business manager’s address, and I dutifully paid any taxes associated with it.”
He added that he closed that account in December 1999 and transferred the money to his account with Chase in New York.
Malkovich said he “speculated” that his name might have appeared in HSBC’s files because of his investments with “convicted fraudster” Bernie Madoff,” and mentioned that while Madoff might have such accounts, he never did.
He says Rosen followed through on his assertion that Malkovich’s name wouldn’t be mentioned in “60 Minutes'” story about the scandal.
“At that point, I was under the impression that Mr. Rosen was satisfied both that I did not have a[n] HSBC account and that I did not engage in tax evasion,” he wrote. “I mistakenly believed this would end the matter.”
At the center of the controversy is a Feb. 8 article by Fabrice Lihomme and Gerard Davet entitled, “‘Swissleaks: the Backstory of a Worldwide Investigation,” which claimed that “many celebrities,” including French comedian Gad Elmaleh, Morocco’s King Mohamed VI and Malkovich “are embarrassed” and that discovery of such an alleged scandal would “shake the international financial industry to the core.”
The story claimed that a team of reporters in Paris, Washington, Geneva and 46 other countries unearthed the hidden workings of a giant tax evasion scheme with HSBC – the world’s second-largest bank, through its Swiss subsidiary, HSBC Private Bank.
While Malkovich’s name wasn’t mentioned in the piece, Malkolvich points to quotes from Le Monde’s editor, Serge Michel, who he says in the piece that Le Monde had 12,000 names from around the world, which suggests to him that CBS in cahoots with Le Monde on the story.
Malkovich subpoenaed CBS because he says it can provide testimony to buoy his defamation cases against Le Monde.
Le Monde claimed in its article that it got a mass of data from a computer analyst and former HSBC employee, Herve Falciani, from 2005 to 2007.
Malkovich says reporters at the newspaper never contacted him about the allegations, and that a call-out quote from him denying the accusations was bogus.
Attorneys for the “Being John Malcovich” star filed an order for discovery Thursday in Manhattan Federal Court for access to communications between the newspaper reporters and the show’s producer.
They said the paper falsely labeled him a “tax cheat.”
The story was picked up by other media outlets, “thereby exacerbating the damage to his reputation,” according to his lawyers’ 5-page request.
Malkovich was nominated for Oscars for his roles in “Places in the Heart: and ‘In the Line of Fire.” According to his declaration, The Cambridge, Mass., resident has appeared in 70 movies. He also noted that he lived in France for a decade.
He is represented in the Manhattan filing by L. Reid Skibell with Harris, O’Brien, St. Laurent & Chaudhry LLP. Representatives with “60 Minutes” and CBS News did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon.