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01/10/2016

Court finds culprit for Luxleaks scandal: The journalist who broke the story

Public Affairs

Court finds culprit for Luxleaks scandal: The journalist who broke the story

Edouard Perrin [Observatoire des Medias]

[Observatoire des medias]

Luxembourg charged yesterday (23 April) the French journalist behind the revealing of the so-called LuxLeaks scandal that implicated the small European country in lowering tax rates for multinationals.

“Today, the investigative judge charged a French journalist accused of being a co-author, if not an accomplice in crimes committed by a former PwC employee,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement without naming the journalist.

A court source confirmed that the French journalist is Edouard Perrin, who first broke the story in 2012 in a programme on the state-owned France 2 TV station.

>>Read: Parliament shuns committee of inquiry into Luxleaks

The scandal did not really erupt until last November, when newspapers poured over 28,000 pages of documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), revealing the full scale of the tax breaks won by 340 companies.

The LuxLeaks scandal exposed deals that saved some of the world’s largest companies, including Apple, IKEA and Pepsi, billions of dollars in taxes while Jean-Claude Juncker — now new president of the European Commission — was Luxembourg’s prime minister.

Perrin is the third person charged in Luxembourg after two former PwC employees, including Antoine Deltour, who has been accused of having stolen documents from the accounting firm before he left in 2010.

The ICIJ trove contained many more documents, and not only from PwC but other accountancy and law firms involved in obtaining secret “tax rulings” that lowered tax rates for companies to as little as one percent (see background).

Luxembourg authorities resumed investigations after the ICIJ released its documents, leading to Deltour being charged in December 2014 for violation of professional secrecy and wrongfully accessing a database.

>>Read: EU needs to increase ‘taxparency’

A Frenchman was charged in January in connection with an apparent second leak of documents from PwC.

A source familiar with the probe said Perrin was charged in relation to the second leak of documents.

Perrin won the Louise Weiss 2012 prize for investigative journalism.

Background

More than 300 companies, including PepsiCo Inc, AIG Inc and Deutsche Bank AG, secured secret deals from Luxembourg to slash their tax bills by billions of euros, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reported on 5 November, quoting leaked documents.

The companies appear to have channelled hundreds of billions of dollars through Luxembourg and saved billions of dollars in taxes, the group of investigative journalists said, based on a review of nearly 28,000 pages of confidential documents. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who was prime minister of Luxembourg from 1995-2013, has rejected all accusations of having orchestrated large-scale tax evasion and has even announced a new EU initiative to tackle tax evasion.

Juncker's defence was to deny any wrong-doing and to promise his full cooperation with the Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is currently investigating four cases of tax evasion (two in Luxembourg, one in the Netherlands and one in Ireland).