European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager speaks during a media conference on a state aid ruling on Monday
European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager speaks during a media conference on a state aid ruling on Monday

LuxLeaks whistleblowers thanked as tax probes continue

Belgium has been ordered to recover $765 million in unpaid taxes from 35 multinational corporations after the European Commission said tax breaks granted to the companies were illegal.

The ruling was the latest in a series of investigations, led by European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, into special tax concessions offered by European countries to lure the business of multinational corporations.

Last year the commission made similar rulings against Luxembourg and the Netherlands concerning their tax deals with Fiat and Starbucks respectively. Investigations into Ireland’s tax arrangements with Apple and Luxembourg’s agreement with Amazon are ongoing.

The commission has not named the 35 companies affected by the Belgium ruling, but brewer ABInBev (which produces Budweiser, Stella Artois and other popular brands of beer) and BP are reported to be among them.

ICIJ’s Luxemourg Leaks investigation, published in 2014, revealed the inner workings of many of these types of secret arrangements that some of the world’s biggest companies make with government authorities in order to slash their tax bills.

On the same day the commission’s latest ruling was announced, an interview with commissioner Vestager was published by EurActiv in which she denounced Luxembourg’s decision to prosecute two whistleblowers and a journalist in relation to leaked tax documents.

“LuxLeaks could not have happened if it was not for the whistleblower and the team of investigative journalists. The two worked very well together to change the momentum of the debate about corporate taxation in Europe,” Vestager said.

“I think everyone should thank both the whistleblower and the investigative journalists who put a lot of work into this.”

The trial of whistleblower and former PricewaterhouseCoopers employee Antoine Deltour, another unnamed whistleblower, and journalist and ICIJ member Edouard Perrin is set to begin in Luxembourg on April 26.

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