Daily Management Review

The French version of Assange: Why Deltour was taken to court


Eighteen months before Mossack Fonseca’s leak of documents, consortium ICIJ published materials about the tax schemes in Luxembourg. The trial on the whistleblower, a former employee of PwC's, began on Tuesday.

Tuesday, April 26, former accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Antoine Deltour appeared before the court in Luxembourg on charges related to the exposure, received the name LuxLeaks in the media. In 2012, he gave to reporters about 28 thousand pages of documents relating to 340 companies receiving from various tax benefits from the Luxembourg authorities. Among them were Apple, IKEA, Gazprom, Deutsche Bank, and others. Deltour, along his colleague in the PwC Rafael Halet, is accused of stealing information and breach of professional secrecy. They are accompanied by French journalist Edouard Perrin, who was the first to publish PwC’s documentation.
Deltour faces from five to ten years in prison and a fine of $ 1.4 million.

Back in 2010, he got in possession documents related to large companies’ schemes on withdrawal of assets in Luxembourg, so the corporation tax burden was reduced. Deltour decided to hand over the documents to French journalists. According to him, he "considered it his duty to submit this information for public scrutiny." 

After leaving the company in the same 2010, Deltour handed over documents to journalist of TV channel France 2 Edouard. At the same time, according to Deltour, he set a condition - not to publicize PwC's and other companies’ participation in the scheme. The journalists could only tell about the very scheme of tax evasion. 

In May 2012, Perrin in the program told about the cash out scheme, mentioning PwC at the same time. Almost immediately after that, the company filed a claim for the theft of documents.

Having the material at his disposal, Perrin invited to cooperate International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which published its own investigation on this matter in October, 2014.

The name of the third person involved in the process, Halet, also engaged in an accounting position in PwC's, became known only last week. He is suspected in the leak of another package of the company’s documents. 

The data published by reporters showed that a number of large companies (in total - about 340) entered into a confidentiality agreement with the Luxembourg authorities to provide them with a favorable tax regime. ICIJ published 548 letters of PwC from 2002 to 2010, which were addressed to the Luxembourg tax authorities. In the correspondence, the company auditor on behalf of their clients justified granting of a preferential tax regime to companies. The rationale were investment in the duchy, as well as registration of subsidiaries and parent companies in Luxembourg. Apple, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Walt Disney, Deutsche Bank, IKEA and others showed up among the companies that have used the services of PwC in cooperation with the Luxembourg tax authorities. 

The total amount of PwC clients’ savings estimated by ICIJ would amount to about $ 1 trillion during eight years. At the same time, some companies got the tax rate cut by 1%.

Deltour’s trial caused stormy public debate. "Deltour deserves praise and protection, not the court. That information, which he opened, served the public interest ", - said managing director of the human rights organization Transparency International Cobus de Swardt on the eve of the trial. In 2015, Deltour had even been nominated for the Sakharov Prize, which the European Parliament gives for the protection of fundamental freedoms, democracy and respect for international law. 

However, Transparency notes that the legislation of most European countries do not include protection for whistleblowers. There is a law for the protection of insiders in Luxembourg, but it is limited only to those cases when it comes to exposing corruption. In addition, the Luxembourg law protects whistleblowers against dismissal only, not from prosecution. In this regard, Transparency indicates the need for urgent legislative amendments.

Large-scale public campaign in Deltour’s support was also deployed in his native France. In particular, Le Monde in an editorial raised the issue of the need for protection for insiders who act in the public interest. Leader of the far-right party "National Front" Marine Le Pen also spoke in Deltour’s defense.

As the Financial Times reports, referring to the opinion of lawyers, Deltour is likely to be sentenced to a short prison term - perhaps less than two years. Deltour himself hopes that his prison sentence can be avoided. "I am fully aware of my responsibility. But I'm not a martyr ", - he told the FT.  

source: ft.com