The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is investigating several European politicians and high-ranking civil servants for tax evasion, using information leaked in the Panama Papers scandal. EURACTIV’s partner La Tribune reports.
The Panama Papers mention a total of some 430,000 names. After scanning the mass of documents and comparing it to the list of 40,000 European personnel, OLAF found it to contain no fewer than 17 leading European political and administrative personalities.
According to German newspaper Wirtschaftswoche, the organisation has so far opened six investigations. “Other investigations may follow,” the paper said.
“No such checks”
With the exception of Dutch former Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, the names of those under investigation or otherwise linked to the scandal are not known.
OLAF’s Director-General Giovanni Kessler said he was pleased that “so few cases” had been raised and added that, as far as he knew, “no EU member state had carried out any such checks”.
Juncker haunted by his past
In June 2016 the European Parliament created a committee of inquiry into the Panama Papers, chaired by German Christian Democrat MEP Werner Langen (EPP). At a hearing with the committee on 31 May, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was questioned not about the possible tax evasion practices of EU institutional staff but about his own role in the practice as Luxembourg’s minister for finance and prime minister.
“I understand that you want to better understand the past. But please do not judge me against this measuring stick. We should measure the credibility of the Commission based on what it is doing now,” the Commission chief said to MEPs.
“A totally different world”
Since the Luxembourger took office in 2014, the EU executive has launched several initiatives aimed at cracking down on tax evasion and avoidance.
“You have to have in mind that these mentions of member states relate to the past. We were living in a totally different world from the one we are in now,” the Commission president said.