Peaceful Protest to mark the trial opening in Luxembourg of “Luxleaks” whistleblower Antoine Deltour and journalist Edouard Perrin
This lunchtime, members of Attac Ireland will present a letter of concern to Mr. Feargal O’Rourke, Managing Partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) Ireland – and hold a peaceful protest between 1pm and 2pm outside PwC offices at Spencer Dock in Dublin – to mark the opening of today’s trial in Luxembourg of former PwC junior auditor Antoine Deltour and French investigative journalist Edouard Perrin.
Mr. Deltour is the main whistleblower behind the release, in November 2014 by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), of 28,000 pages of leaked PwC material to an international network of journalists, newspapers and other global news outlets across 26 countries, including the Guardian, Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung and, in Ireland, Colm Keena and John McManus of the Irish Times
These documents relate to secretive, highly favourable tax deals, negotiated by PwC with revenue officials of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg on behalf of large multinational companies and which enabled them to reduce their tax liabilities to often less than 1% of their annual profits
In all, 548 tax documents were leaked, detailing the activities of over 350 companies – including 42 “associated with Ireland”, including Irish food group Glanbia and construction/healthcare conglomerate, the Sisk Group; alongside a fleet of household names such as Heinz, Prudential, Pepsi, Skype, GlaxoSmithKline, Black & Decker, Proctor and Gamble, McGraw-Hill, Experian and International Flavors & Fragrances.
Although legal, such activities, once exposed, caused an international scandal at a time of widespread rolling financial crises, with many sovereign coffers laid bare by public bail-outs of financial institutions, and public services ravaged by austerity policies. The Luxleaks revelations led immediately to several official inquiries across the European Union, whilst Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg’s prime minister over the period covered by many of the documents – and reputed architect of the scheme), was forced to face down a vote of no confidence in his leadership.
Following PwC’s complaint to Luxembourg’s public prosecutor, Mr Deltour’s trial, expected to last five days, sees him accused of theft, violating the Grand Duchy’s secrecy laws, and illegally accessing PwC’s database. His co-accused include another former PwC employee (yet to be officially named) and French investigative journalist Edouard Perrin, who first broke the story in 2012, and who has been charged as an “accomplice” in “domestic theft, violation of professional secrecy, violation of business secrets, laundering and fraudulent access to a system of automatic data treatment”.
Mr Perrin, who received the documents from Deltour, first broke the story with two documentaries for state-owned France 2 TV channel in 2012 and 2013. Both now face up to 10 years in prison and a penalty of €1m, or as Deltour put it last month, “a fine that exceeds a lifelong income” – for ordinary workers and citizens.
Over 125,000 people have signed a petition in support of Deltour’s actions, while many individuals, businesses, trade unions, NGOs, academics, journalists and political parties across Europe have contributed to his defence fund. Last year, the European Parliament awarded him its Citizen’s Prize for his actions in the public interest; while support has been expressed by public figures from Edward Snowden and Julian Assange to Thomas Piketty, French magistrate Eva Joly and former WTO Director-General, Pascal Lamy.
Amongst other honours, Perrin has been awarded the Louise Weiss prize for European Journalism for his Luxleaks work with the ICIJ.
Last April 13th, Deltour and Perrin wrote a last minute-letter to the European Parliament’s S&D group calling for a block on the new EU Trade Secrets Directive, which was nonetheless voted through by the European Parliament on 14th of April. This controversial directive, many observers predict, will add to the fortress of secrecy protection enjoyed by big business, and intensify the chill on whistleblowers and investigative journalists in coming forward with their legitimate and evidential findings.
Yesterday, the Irish Times reported huge surges in fee income to €1.14 billion for 2015 for the “Big Four” accountancy firms in Ireland (themselves multinationals), including PwC’s self-reported revenue of €246 million for 2015 (on an all-island basis, €374 million); up 7 per cent on 2014.
Since the Luxleaks revelations, the ICIJ has facilitated the 2015 “Swiss Leaks” scandal from the HSBC archive; and in recent weeks, the Panama Papers of 11 million files from the law partnership Mossack Fonseca, as revelations continue to spill out about the unconscionable lengths to which private wealth will go to hide itself from all social responsibility.
For futher info or comments, contact Attac via Claudine Gaidoni on 08510 12212 or at c . gaidoni [at] laposte.net
Letter to Mr. Feargal O’Rourke: