Former European Commissioner Neelie Kroes, once Brussels’ most feared corporate watchdog, failed to declare her directorship of an offshore firm, leaked files showed yesterday (21 September).
Kroes was named in a new cache of 1.3 million offshore files, leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, as being a director of Bahamas-based Mint Holdings Limited between 2000 and 2009.
For years, Neelie Kroes was Europe's top corporate enforcer. She was also listed as a director of a Bahamas company https://t.co/HfSm2RTyAs
— ICIJ (@ICIJorg) September 21, 2016
The EU code of conduct states that “Commissioners may not engage in any other professional activity, whether gainful or not”.
Kroes’s legal team told international newspapers, including Britain’s Guardian, that their client “agrees that formally she should have declared this directorship”.
“Mrs Kroes will inform the president of the European Commission of this oversight and will take full responsibility for it,” they told the Guardian.
The legal team added that Kroes, a Commissioner between 2004 and 2014, had believed Mint Holdings had been liquidated in 2002, and that she had not been paid for her role.
A Commission spokeswoman said that Kroes had now informed them about the directorship, and that “we will check and analyse this information before we decide” what action to take.
The company was set up by a United Arab Emirates private equity boss as a vehicle to potentially secure half the international assets of energy giant Enron, shortly before its collapse, but the $7 billion (€6.3 billion) deal fell through.
British minister named
Kroes, now a paid adviser to Bank of America and Uber, earned a steely reputation in Brussels after taking on Microsoft, E.ON, GDF Suez and other corporate giants in her monopolies-busting role.
However, she recently took the side of Apple against her successor, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in the giant case in which the California technology giant has been told to reimburse Ireland €13 billion in unpaid taxes.
British-based campaign group Tax Justice Network said the leaks revealed the Bahamas to be “a global menace” to the international tax system.
“For many of us who study tax havens it was just a matter of time before a major scandal hit the Bahamas,” said the group’s Moran Harari.
The UK’s new Interior Minister Amber Rudd was also named in the leaked data on 175,000 companies as having been a director of two Bahamas-based firms during her pre-political business career, according to The Guardian.
The files revealed Rudd was a director of two companies, Advanced Asset Allocation Fund and Advanced Asset Allocation Management, between 1998 and 2000.
Britain is one of many countries that have vowed to clamp down on the use of offshore tax havens, and revelations that a senior minister may have profited from a regime that imposes no income, corporate or wealth taxes on individuals investing in offshore companies are likely to raise uncomfortable questions for the government.
Rudd, 53, previously defended former Prime Minister David Cameron when it emerged he had held shares in his late father’s Bahamas-based investment fund, which he sold before he took office in 2010.
Rudd, who was energy minister at the time, told the BBC that “the prime minister and his family paid the correct amount of tax that they were due”, and said that she personally did not have any money in offshore trusts.