Suspected ‘LuxLeaks’ whistleblower hit with theft charges
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A Frenchman suspected of having leaked thousands of pages of documents that could jeopardize multinational companies – and the new president of the European Commission – over tax avoidance was questioned by a Luxembourg judge on Friday.
The suspect's identity has not been revealed, but Luxembourg media reported that he is a French national and former employee of auditing firm PwC Luxembourg.
"A person has today been charged by an investigating magistrate in Luxembourg on counts of theft, breach of confidentiality, violation of trade secrets, money-laundering and fraudulent access to an automated data-processing system," the Luxembourg prosecutors' office said in a statement.
The embarrassing documents revealed secret tax avoidance deals between Luxembourg and some of the world’s biggest companies, including Apple, Disney, IKEA and Pepsi, which were hammered out while European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was the country’s prime minister.
Over 300 companies involved
PwC executives had previously declared that top secret documents had been stolen in September 2010 by a former employee who had made copies of confidential data over two years without being spotted.
But the scandal did not blow up until last month -- just days after Juncker came to office as European Commission chief -- when dozens of newspapers pored over a new wave of 28,000 pages of documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, revealing the full scale of the tax breaks won by 340 companies.
A fresh batch of documents released this week dragged in dozens of new companies, including Microsoft-owned Internet phone service Skype
They detail "aggressive tax structures" brokered for major companies by accountants Ernst & Young, KPMG, PwC and Deloitte between 2003 and 2011.
Junker in the hot seat
Juncker, who survived a vote of no confidence over the scandal late last month, urged EU states and lawmakers on Friday to back tougher money-laundering laws.
"Transparency and good governance are pillars of our action" against corruption, Juncker wrote in reply to a letter from investigative journalists who pressed him on the issue.
Juncker has suggested that the scandal has been used as a way to attack him in his first weeks in the job, saying that the timing of the leaks was "not a coincidence," while maintaining he was not personally involved in the deals brokered with major corporations.
Juncker easily survived his confidence vote in the European Parliament, but when asked if his rival socialists might withdraw their confidence, leader Gianni Pittella gave the Commission chief six months to come up with proposals to settle the tax avoidance problem.
"The trust we've instilled in him is not a blank cheque. It is conditional on his actions," Pittella told a press conference.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)