Monday

25th Sep 2017

EU commission seeks answers from Kroes

  • Mint Holdings Ltd is registered in the Bahamas, an offshore tax haven. (Photo: Neelie Kroes)

The European Commission has asked former competition chief Neelie Kroes to clarify her links to an offshore firm.

The commission head, Jean-Claude Juncker, wrote to her on Thursday (22 September), to ask questions such as when she had joined Mint Holdings, a company registered in the Bahamas, and what instructions she had given to her lawyers pertaining to the company.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"All this needs to be clear," said an EU official.

Juncker did not give her a deadline to respond, but she is expected to write back quickly.

Her lawyer had already written to Juncker by email last Friday to say that Kroes had forgotten to mention Mint in her declaration of interests back when she was commissioner.

The lawyer also said that she had received no payment from the firm and that she relinquished her directorship of it in 2009.

That email had been overlooked, EU officials said, until the Kroes story broke in media on Wednesday.

A confirmed violation of the EU Treaty’s article 245, which outlines the code of conduct for commissioners, could see the perpetrator lose their pension and their “transitional allowance”, a portion of their wage paid for three years after they depart office.

In Kroes’ case, the 76-year old is entitled to an EU pension but does not draw one. "She didn't ask for it so she is not receiving it," said an EU official.

That means she could only lose her allowance, which, for Carl Dolan from the NGO Transparency International, would be more symbolic than anything else.

Kroes has already waded into controversy by landing a job on the advisory board of US car-sharing firm Uber, a company she had defended during her time as digital agenda commissioner.

It is unclear if she does any other lobby work, but earlier this month, she also defended US tech giant Apple in its tax clash with the commission by writing an op-ed in The Guardian, a British newspaper.

The intern

Kroes' ties to Mint Holdings has also raised questions on her links to Jordanian businessman Amin Badr-El-Din.

Badr-El-Din is another director at Mint Holdings and had reportedly worked with Kroes to create "the world’s premier gas company" by buying up Enron's international assets.

The plan fell apart after Enron, an American energy giant, collapsed.

In another twist, Amin Badr-El-Din's son, Khaled, on his outdated website said he had an internship lined up with Kroes in 2007 when she was the EU competition commissioner in late 2007.

"He [Khaled] will attend meetings in her private office," notes the personal website.

Asked by press in Brussels on Thursday if Kroes had granted the internship, the EU commission said it actually never took place.

Ethics and oversight

The EU's anti-fraud office Olaf, for its part, said it was aware of the Kroes reports but declined to comment on the matter.

The agency is not consulted on the declarations of interest prior to the commissioners taking office, but it can, if it so chooses, investigate cases of alleged serious misconduct by EU officials.

Emily O'Reilly, the EU ombudsman, has also refrained from commenting directly on the Kroes case.

But she told the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that such incidents reflected badly on the EU.

"The negative impression it leaves with the public tends to resonate more strongly than any positive counter steps subsequently undertaken," she said.

The Kroes affair comes shortly after former commission president Jose Manuel Barroso took a job at Goldman Sachs, a US mega-bank that helped to cause the 2008 financial crisis.

"There are certain things that even the strictest rules like ours cannot fix. This is the case of our former president who made the choice to work go for a certain bank and this is now the case of a former commissioner, who apparently did not respect the rules and did not tell the commission about it," said EU commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas on Thursday.

Former EU commissioner gets slap on the wrist

Neelie Kroes, a commission member from 2004 to 2014, received a "reprimand" fro failing to declare off-shore company and income while receiving an EU allowance.

Bank agency shuns EU invitations

The EU's banking agency is not visiting cities that want to host the agency post-Brexit "to ensure objectivity". The medicines agency has no such qualms.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel wins fourth term, exit polls say
  2. EU to hail 'aspirations' of former Soviet states
  3. UK says credit downgrade was wrong
  4. Dutch state appeals ban on taking air-polluting measures
  5. May proposes 2-year transition period after Brexit
  6. May to call on EU's 'sense of responsibility'
  7. Catalonia has 'contingency plans' for independence vote
  8. Last German polls confirm Merkel's lead

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEU Finance Ministers Agreed to Develop New Digital Taxation Rules
  2. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  3. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  4. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  6. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  7. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  10. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  11. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  12. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel