LuxLeaks trial continues as whistleblowers fight conviction

LuxLeaks protesters

Luxembourg’s second trial against two whistleblowers and a journalist who divulged thousands of pages of secretive tax deals will extend into the New Year as the legal stoush over the Lux Leaks scandal continues.

The second trial began earlier in December after the defendants and the Luxembourg prosecutor both appealed the court’s June ruling against two former PricewaterhouseCoopers employees who provided documents later used by investigative journalists to reveal controversial tax schemes.

In addition to monetary penalties, former accountants Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet were handed 12 and nine-month suspended jail sentences, respectively. Edouard Perrin, the investigative journalist who first exposed what became known as the Luxembourg Leaks, was acquitted, but remains involved in the appeal as prosecutors claimed his case was tightly linked to the whistleblowers.

Deltour and Halet immediately lodged an appeal against the June verdict, seeking an annulment of their convictions. Luxembourg prosecutors also appealed, and reportedly planned to ask the court for stiffer penalties against the duo.

However, as the second trial began, Luxembourg prosecutors instead recommended the court reduce the original sentences handed to Deltour and Halet.

Luxembourg, whose secretive “sweetheart” tax deals allowed some multinational companies to reduce taxable income in the Duchy to less than one per cent, continues to insist that the former PwC employees stole confidential information.

PwC, which is seeking a symbolic one euro penalty, insists that it was the victim of theft. In court, Deltour’s lawyers denied that PwC had suffered damage as a result of the leak and argued that the 31-year-old former employee acted in good faith in copying and sharing documents with journalist Perrin.

"By acquitting Antoine Deltour, you will become the honor of the Luxembourg justice system, the honor of European justice,” Deltour’s lawyer, William Bourdon, told the Luxembourg judge hearing the appeal.

The trial is set to resume on January 4.

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Former commissioner avoids punishment over Bahamas Leaks company

In other news, the European Commission on Wednesday published its decision not to pursue sanctions against former Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes over her links to an offshore company.

Kroes, a former Dutch politician and now an advisor to Uber, failed during her tenure as a senior European politician to declare her directorship of a company set up in the Bahamas. The information was revealed in September by news organizations including ICIJ, Sudduetsche Zeitung, Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad and The Guardian as part of the Bahamas Leaks investigation.

In its report on the matter, the European Commission said that Kroes breached the code of conduct for commissioners but accepted her explanation that she was unaware of records that listed her as a director.

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