LuxLeaks tax scandal with far-reaching consequences
The documents, which Antoine Deltour, former employee of Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, leaked to the media at the end of 2014, were explosive: they exposed the arrangements of numerous corporations with the Luxembourg authorities, which guaranteed international corporations preferential treatment with regard to taxing their profits. In some cases, the income tax paid by large corporations was less than 1 percent. However, for former Luxembourg Premier Jean-Claude Juncker this scandal came at the worst possible time, as at the end of 2014 he was engaged in the hearings concerning his new appointment as EU Commission President. But it turned out to be a stroke of luck for the tax payer: Juncker promised to use his role as Commission President to take action against the tax swamps at EU level.
Conviction of the scandal’s whistleblowers
However, for Antoine Deltour and Raphaël Halet, the exposure of the explosive documents ended with them appearing in front of the Luxembourg Court: they were charged with theft and violating business secrets. Eventually, Deltour was given a suspended sentence of 6 months and ordered to pay a fine; Halet was ordered to pay a fine.
However, the verdict was strongly condemned by civil society and many MEPs. They demand impunity for whistleblowers, as they provide information on tax abuses adopted by corporations and the super rich.
Luxembourg Supreme Court reverses conviction
The positive surprise came at the start of January 2018: the Luxembourg Supreme Court supported the appeal and followed the arguments of Deltour’s lawyer. Thus, it was incomprehensible that the Court would recognise his client as a whistleblower, but that he was nevertheless sentenced because of data theft. Hence, the case was referred back to the Court of First Instance.
In contrast, the verdict against Raphaël Halet to pay a fine of € 1,000 was upheld. Halet now intends to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Even though the rejection of the verdict is a significant step forward, the development should still be treated with caution. The conviction of Halet has been upheld and it is remains uncertain which decision the Court will take when the case against Deltour is reopened.
In any case, the demand must remain that the leakage of data by whistleblowers, which prove damage to society, has to be treated with impunity!