That‘s it, I won! But is it really a victory?
This statement was originally published by Antoine on 11 January 2017 on Facebook (in French). We cross-pubished it here as an op-ed.
That‘s it, I won! Although, usually, when you win, it’s in a game or a battle… Though I didn‘t play, nor fight. I only acted as a citizen. Is it really a victory not to be convicted when one only acted as citizen? Anyway, I‘m very happy about that, really, it‘s a relief. And I am very grateful to the many supporters, it’s a collective victory. But in my opinion, this victory is only the mere application of the law, and this is precisely what we have been asking for since the beginning.
My judicial marathon is not over yet. I am referred back to the Court of Appeal. But I will go there serenely, accused of a minor ultra-peripheral part of the case. Indeed, when I left PwC, I not only copied the tax rulings (LuxLeaks), but also some training slides. Everyone does that, and I actually never opened these files, and who cares?! Maybe I‘ll get a residual conviction for this. I could also be arrested for going through a red traffic light on my way to the court. If that‘s all they can get, I‘m a fair player and I‘ll accept the sentence.
Also, my happiness is tempered by the rejection of Raphel Halet‘s appeal. According to the Luxembourg justice, he would not be a whistleblower because of the insufficient interest of the documents he revealed. These documents, however, were the basis of one full “Cash Investigation” newsmagazine TV program. And they target companies like Ikea and Amazon that are currently under the investigations of the European Commission. I therefore express my solidarity with Raphael. He will now continue the fight before the European Court of Human Rights. We‘ll follow this closely.
It is hardly known but a European whistleblowers protection already exists. It‘s the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. In my case, it took a very long road to get to its full application (and it’s not yet finished). We had to go through three judicial authorities and to collect many anonymous support donations (thank you!). In order to avoid such difficulties for future whistleblowers, especially those who are less visible and unfortunately without the same strong support, it is urgent to that a European directive is adopted. Such a directive would protect whistleblowers much more directly than under the European Convention on Human Rights. Members of the European Parliament are already pushing very hard in this direction. We must now counter the European Commission and some Member States’ inertia. For this, public pressure is essential.
Finally, now that we are almost done discussing the whistleblowers’ situation, we may finally deal with the core content of the case. And as a matter of fact I have a few thoughts to share in this context:
- The LuxLeaks 2 revelations of December 2014 fell into oblivion, even if they involve ALL major audit firms, including PwC‘s competitors.
- Luxembourg brilliantly mastered its post-_LuxLeaks_ communication (“these practices are over, we drastically progressed since then”) but continues to oppose corporate tax harmonization, against the very views of J.C. Juncker himself.
- Despite some progress towards tax justice, corporate tax revenues in Europe continue to vanish like the ice pack at the North Pole. And the profits of multinationals are rising like sea level in the Maldives. This race to the bottom results from tax competition.
- The repeated scandals, and especially the Paradise Papers, make me progressively doubt that we will be able to put all this in order one day.
- Finally, in my opinion, we’d better spare the bandwidth to work instead on limiting the damages and building the future. Indeed, the human species cannot continue to destroy its own living environment for long without getting a brutal call to order.
Sorry about this last off-topic, but in the end, that‘s what this case brought me: a tiny bit of fame to keep on alerting on the issues that are of direct concern to me.
Happy New Year!