Saturday

17th Nov 2018

LuxLeaks forces discussion on EU-wide protections

  • Few member states have "comprehensive" whistleblower protection rules (Photo: Sven Graeme)

Justice ministers are meeting over lunch in Brussels on Tuesday (28 March) to discuss possible whistleblower protection rules at EU level.

But talks are likely to encounter obstacles given the broader resistance at member state level towards any meaningful rules. "The idea is to generate a discussion," noted one EU official.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Delrour: "The fate handed over to the whistleblower has a direct impact on the freedom of expression." (Photo: European Parliament)

Antoine Deltour, the Frenchman who helped uncover one of the biggest tax scandals in Europe, told EUobserver that EU-wide whistleblower rules are needed due to the varied interpretations of public interest across EU countries.

"The interests of the business circles and the financial companies are a matter of public interest for Luxembourg, while the car industry is a public interest for Germany," he said in Strasbourg on Friday (24 March) at an event hosted by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.

Deltour said the wide interpretation between member states is a disadvantage for whistleblowers, who may be revealing shortcomings that affect people all over Europe.

Varied interests

"This notion of public interest can be interpreted very differently according to whether you have a European standpoint or a domestic point of view," he said.

He said EU rules are needed also to strengthen the notion of a much broader public interest.

Deltour, along with Raphael Halet, leaked documents from the Luxembourg branch of the accountancy firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), to French television reporter Edouard Perrin in 2011.

The documents eventually ended up being probed by dozens of media outlets who then exposed how some 340 big companies secured secret deals from Luxembourg that allowed many of them to cut their global tax bills.

Although their revelations led to stronger EU tax transparency rules, both Deltour and Halet received suspended jail sentences and fines in Luxembourg for their actions.

A Luxembourg court shortened their convictions earlier this month, with Deltour now receiving a six-month suspended jail sentence and a €1,500 fine. Halet was fined €1,000, and Perrin was acquitted.

"They acted in the public interest, and without whistleblowers like them, we would not see real effort to tackle tax dodging,” Transparency International said in a statement following the latest rulings.

Those sentences may be appealed but Deltour said the money, time, and personal costs involved are making him hesitate.

His defence expenses have so far totalled up to around €60,000, paid by a support committee.

Whistleblowers needed

"The fate handed over to the whistleblower has a direct impact on the freedom of expression because without sources journalists have a very limited power," he said.

One study in 2016 looked at 2,400 cases of fraud in over 100 countries and found that 40 percent of the detected cases came from whistleblowers.

Earlier this year, the European Parliament piled on pressure for the European Commission to adopt rules on whistleblowers.

The EU executive institution has started a public consultation on whistleblowers that should end in May.

It has also launched an impact assessment, an extensive fact-finding probe that usually precedes any legislative proposals.

"This year we are basically looking into options, doing further consultations, doing the impact assessment, and then we see what comes out of it," noted an EU commission spokesperson.

LuxLeaks whistleblowers sentenced again

PwC employees Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet, who revealed how multinational companies dodged taxes through deals in Luxembourg, were given reduced sentences.

Investigation

Inside the Code of Conduct, the EU's most secretive group

The informal group of national officials that is in charge of checking EU countries' tax laws is now working on the first EU blacklist of tax havens, amid critiques over its lack of transparency and accountability.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Opinion

Interpol, China and the EU

China joins a long list of countries - including Russia - accused of abusing Interpol's 'Red Notice' system to harras activists and dissidents.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us