Thursday

8th Dec 2016

MEPs sign letter in support of LuxLeaks whistleblowers

  • Whistleblower Antoine Deltour (r) received a 12-month suspended sentence (Photo: European Parliament)

One hundred and eight MEPs have signed an open letter to support the two whistleblowers judged in Luxembourg for revealing sweetheart tax deals granted to multinationals.

In the letter to Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet, dated 8 September, the eurodeputies expressed their "support and solidarity" and said their revelations "had a decisive impact for the debate on tax transparency and tax justice".

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Deltour and Halet, two former employees of accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, in July were given suspended sentences of 12 and nine months. Another defendant, journalist Edouard Perrin, was acquitted. Luxembourg's prosecutor appealed the ruling and a new trial will take place.

The MEPs say they were "shocked and angered" by the two men's conviction because the same court had recognised their whistleblower status.

In their letter, which they also sent to the EU justice and competition commissioners, Vera Jourova and Margrethe Vestager, and to Luxembourg's justice minister, Felix Braz, the signatories said they would "continue to push for sufficient legislative protection for whistleblowers in the months and, if needs be, years ahead."

Tangible action

"The European Commission’s recognition of the importance of the matter in its 5 July communication on tax transparency will hopefully translate into tangible action soon," they added.

They also called for an investigation into the ties between the Luxembourg tax administration and corporations like PricewaterhouseCoopers that were revealed during the trial.

The letter was initiated by German left-wing MEP Fabio de Masi after the court's ruling in July and published only now, after MEPs came back from their summer break.

The timing is also designed to put pressure on Luxembourg authorities, before the statutory limitation for Marius Kohl, the former head of Luxembourg tax agency, ends, allowing him to escape questioning.

Only one EPP signature

It is mainly signed by MEPs from De Masi's GUE/NGL group, the centre-left S&D and Greens/EFA groups, and by a handful of MEPs from the liberal Alde and eurosceptic EFDD groups. Only one MEP from the centre-right EPP group, the parliament's largest group, joined the letter.

"We contacted all MEPs several times throughout July, a source close to De Masi told EUobserver, adding that MEPs from the far-right ENF group were not contacted "for political reasons".

"There was no reply formally by any group. The signatures are probably just reflective of the importance attached by different groups to the issue," the source said.

Asked about why the EPP was not represented, a group spokesman said it was "not aware of that letter. We do not know who initiated this letter nor who was asked to sign."

He added that in the negotiations of the report of the special committee set up by the parliament's to investigate the LuxLeaks, "the EPP group's stance was that whistleblowers' protection is national competency [power], as criminal law in general is national competency."

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