What is LuxLeaks?

by Salvatore Messina, LAPAS intern

Luxembourg Leaks (or Lux Leaks) is the name of a journalistic investigation conducted in cooperation by 80 journalists of 26 countries for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. It led to a financial scandal revealed in November 2014. The investigation ended up revealing to the public tax rulings for many multinational companies based in Luxembourg.

Thanks to these tax rulings created by the Luxembourg’s Tax Office while Jean-Claude Junker was prime minister of the country, many big companies managed to avoid taxation. Although these secret agreements between Luxembourg and multinational companies are legal in that country, they could violate European law on competition and State aid.

The leaked documents show how the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the second largest professional services firm in the world and one of the “Big four auditors” (along with Deloitte, EY and KPMG), helped those companies to achieve benefits through Luxembourg’s tax rulings.

These documents were leaked by three whistleblowers. The first one, and main leak source, is Antoine Deltour. Deltour (French, 28 year old) was an employee of PricewaterhouseCoopers. Although he claimed those files were not protected and he didn’t ack any system to get them, he has been charged by an investigating judge with money laundering, fraud, theft, disclosing of confidential information and trade secrets on 12 December 2014. Deltour stated that his motivation wasn’t a financial one, but public good.

Soon, support came to the whistleblower, not only from public opinion, but also from politicians. An open letter was signed in his favour on the Guardian on 23 December 2014. Another very famous “leaker”, Edward Snowden, expressed his solidarity to former employee of PwC.

Deltour also received some prizes. In December 2015 he was recognized as the “Person of the year 2015” by Tax Notes  International professional magazine and the European Parliament gave him the European Citizens’ Prize on 3 June 2015. Furthermore, we shouldn’t forget that he was nominated for the 2015 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

As we said before, there are two more whistleblowers in this story: Raphaël Halet and Eduard Perrin.

Halet is also a former employee of the PricewaterhouseCoopers and he was fired due to the leaks.

Perrin is a journalist and was charged together with Halet for being the coauthor of the offences comitted by the second one.

All of the three whistleblowers faced a trial which was held from 26 April to 11 May 2016 at the Criminal Court of Luxembourg. A the end of the trial, the prosecutor asked 18-months sentence for Deltour and Halet as well as fines against them and against the journalist. The judgment was delivered on 26 June 2016: Antoine Deltour was sentenced to a suspended 12-month jail time and a 1,500 € fine, Raphaël Halet was sentenced to a suspended 9-month jail time and a 1,000 € fine, Edouard Perrin, instead,  is acquitted.

This story is an evidence of how many difficulties whistleblowers face and of the luck of protection that they suffer in Europe.

The appeal trial will take place from 12 to 21 December. We will soon see what is going to happen.