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15th Oct 2018

Court charges Luxleaks reporter over leaked documents

  • Luxembourg: The French journalist responsible for breaking the story faces indictment (Photo: Jimmy Reu)

The French journalist who broke the Luxleaks corporate tax avoidance scandal has been charged with leaking documents held by accounting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers by a court in Luxembourg on Thursday (23 April).

The court did not name the journalist, but his identity was later confirmed by AFP as Edouard Perrin, who first broke the story in 2012 in a programme on the state-owned France 2 TV station.

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“The judge charged him with being the co-author, or accomplice, of the offences committed by one of the former PwC employees,” the court said in a statement.

Two former employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Luxembourg were charged with theft, breaching professional confidentiality, and fraudulent access to data systems, in December and January respectively, in relation to the leaking of confidential documents concerning the tax affairs of some of the largest corporations in the world.

In a statement on Friday (24 April), ICIJ director Gerard Ryle said that Perrin’s reporting had clearly been in the public interest, describing the charges as showing “a lack of respect for the important role journalism plays in holding the powerful accountable.

“Perrin’s reporting on Luxembourg’s secretive tax practices has been critical in triggering official European inquiries and opening significant, widespread debate about the fairness of tax policies,” Ryle said.

“The Luxembourg Leaks investigation, which Perrin played a key role in, revealed aggressive tax avoidance strategies that damaged national treasuries and hurt taxpayers at a time of austerity throughout the European Union.

But despite Perrin breaking the story in 2012, the Luxleaks scandal did not fully emerge until last November when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists pored over around 28,000 pages of documents and found that 343 companies – including giants such as Swedish furniture maker Ikea, German lender Deutsche Bank, and US tech firm Apple – received ‘comfort’ rulings from the Luxembourg government, allowing them to pay tiny amounts of corporate tax.

The scandal embarassed European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, who was prime minister of the Duchy at the time when the rulings were made.

Following the exposé, the commission announced proposals to require the automatic exchange of information on tax rulings between EU governments, and force national authorities to send each other reports on tax rulings every three months.

For its part, the European Parliament has begun an inquiry into the tax practices of governments and will table a proposal to the commission on tax evasion and tax avoidance.

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