The Brief: LuxLeaks whistleblowers’ trial is a disgrace

LUXLEAKS WHISTLEBLOWERS’ TRIAL IS A DISGRACE

It is hard to care about Luxembourg. But recently, I have developed strong feelings of dislike for it.

It may look like some Ruritanian paradise, with its fortifications and its oh-so-cute USP of somehow being overlooked for conquest by proper nations.

But callous menace lurks underneath the soulless surface of twee boredom. Just ask Antoine Deltour, Raphael Halet and Edouard Perrin.

Deltour and Haelt are the LuxLeaks whistleblowers. Perrin is the journalist who was leaked the evidence of the huge tax breaks Luxembourg offered global multinationals like Apple and IKEA.

The PwC employees’ brave decision exposed a practice which robs other member states’ citizens of tax revenue.

It also embarrassed European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister when many of the deals were struck, into throwing his weight behind a whole suite of EU tax avoidance legislation.

But Deltour and Haelt were punished by Luxembourg in a nauseating show trial.

A court handed Deltour a year-long jail sentence and Halet a nine month sentence for leaking the documents. They had faced a maximum ten year penalty.

The show trial sent a clear message – this tax haven is very much still open for business and if anyone else steps out of line we will crush them beneath our pricy suede loafers.

But vicious, vengeful Luxembourg wasn’t done with them yet. The state prosecutor appealed the verdict, as did Deltour and Haelt. Perrin, who was acquitted, is also facing retrial.

Today the three men were back in Luxembourg, which is punishment enough for any crime. The retrial is expected to last until December.

It is worth remembering that the only people who have faced criminal charges as a result of LuxLeaks are the whistleblowers. That doesn’t look or feel like justice.

There is actually more at stake for Luxembourg, which has actually increased the number of its secret tax deals since Luxleaks, than the whistleblowers. They are seen as heroes.

If it upholds or increases the sentence, Luxembourg will look like 1950s Cuba, a country bought by and policed for a foreign mafia.

Cuba at least had good music and weather. Even the mafia at least had decent suits and meatballs. Luxembourg just has tax-dodging and kangaroo courts.

THE ROUND UP

Italy has a new prime minister. Surprisingly, that is the first time we have written that in The Brief. Something tells us it won’t be the last.

The Foreign Affairs Council has “strongly” condemned North Korea’s nuclear tests. Pretty certain that Kim Jong-Un isn’t that bothered.

We got our hands on the minutes of a meeting between Commissioner Andriukaitis and the ambassadors of the USA, Canada, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. Here is what they had to say on trade and endocrine disruptors.

China has filed a dispute resolution case with the World Trade Organisation over EU anti-dumping duties.

The EU and Cuba have signed a pact to normalise relations. Methane emissions have increased sharply but no one is quite sure why. Christine Lagarde was in court today accused of negligence.

Austria’s foreign minister is turning his back on Ankara but making eyes at Moscow. Austria’s Commissioner Johannes Hahn has said the EU will “never be complete” without the Western Balkans.

EU regulators have fined Sony, Panasonic and Sanyo €166 million for a rechargeable batteries cartel.

The European Commission and European Central Bank have told Spain to privatise Bankia and shore up its financial sector.

This is what happened when the European Central Bank did a #askecb Twitter chat.

LOOK OUT FOR…

The Sakharov Prize will be awarded tomorrow in Strasbourg to Iraqi Yazidi survivors and activists. 104 MEPs have called on the EU to recognise ISIS’ attacks on the Yazidis as genocide.

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