Two whistleblowers and an investigative reporter at the heart of the "LuxLeaks" scandal return to court on Monday for leaking thousands of documents that exposed Luxembourg's huge tax breaks for international firms.
Protestors from across Europe are expected in Luxembourg as the three men begin their appeal against a verdict that saw two of the defendants receive jail sentences last June.
The LuxLeaks scandal sparked a major global push against generous deals handed to multinationals that grew even stronger after the Panama Papers revelations earlier this year.
Former PricewaterhouseCoopers employees Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet in June received 12-month and nine-month suspended sentences, respectively, for passing on more than 30,000 documents to journalist Edouard Perrin.
The reporter was acquitted of all charges, but was added to the appeal after the Luxembourg prosecutor argued that his case was indelibly linked to the others.
The re-trial, following an appeal by Deltour and Halet, is due to last from Monday until December 21.
In his June ruling, Judge Marc Thill recognised the defendants' "undeniable contribution […] to greater transparency" on tax matters.
But the two Frenchmen were still found guilty, angering activists who have launched petitions and raised money for legal fees.
"The original sentences of Mr Deltour and Mr Halet were a total disgrace, and we want this injustice to stop," said Tove Ryding, a tax justice coordinator at the European Network on Debt and Development.
"You shouldn't have to go to court for exposing the fact that multinational corporations are dodging taxes," she added.
In an interview with French daily Le Monde on Monday, Perrin said the case was evidence of a “desperate lack of legislation protecting whistleblowers in Europe”.
He added: “The court recognised Antoine Deltour and Raphaël Halet as whistleblowers in June, and still failed to protect them. This trial is a warning to journalists and whistleblowers.”
EU forced into action
The blockbuster leak revealed the huge tax breaks that tiny EU nation Luxembourg offered international firms including Apple, IKEA and Pepsi, at a time when Jean-Claude Juncker, now head of the European Commission, was prime minister.
The revelations ultimately prompted the EU to take urgent steps to stop global firms avoiding tax in Europe, including anti-trust inquiries into firms like Apple, McDonald's and Amazon.
The scandal also pressured Luxembourg into accepting a new law that requires EU member states to share information about tax deals with their bloc partners.
Deltour and Halet had faced a maximum penalty of 10 years on charges which included stealing documents, revealing business secrets and violation of professional secrets.
The documents were originally used for a 2012 report by reporter Perrin on French public television but really exploded onto the world stage two years later with the huge "LuxLeaks" release of all 30,000 pages into the public domain.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2016-12-12