THE LUXLEAKS scandal starts a new chapter today as two former PwC employees go on trial accused of leaking thousands of corporate documents that expose Luxembourg’s shadowy tax deals.
Antoine Deltour, a former auditor for the Big Four firm and ex-employee Raphael Halet are facing charges of theft, revealing business secrets, violation of professional secrets and money laundering.
Deltour is accused of passing on client information to French journalist Edouard Perrin, who first broke the story.
Halet is suspected of a separate leak to Deltour, while Perrin is facing accusations of being an accomplice.
In November 2014 a cache of almost 28,000 documents describing tax deals struck with Luxembourg revealed that the tiny EU state was facilitating more than 1,000 multinationals in tax avoidance activities, all of which are entirely legal. The leaked documents primarily relate to clients of PwC.
Weeks after the documents came to light, the Public Accounts Committee accused pharmaceutical company Shire and PwC of “scamming the British people” over the company’s business structure.
The documents revealed that a Luxembourg unit of Shire received more than $1.9bn (£1.2bn) in interest income from subsidiaries between 2009 and 2014, paying corporation tax of less than $2m over four of the years despite minimal overheads.
In 2015 the PAC claimed that the Big Four firm was at the centre of ‘industrial scale’ tax avoidance, as former PAC chair Margaret Hodge urged the government to take a “more active role in the industry, as it evidently cannot be trusted to regulate itself”.
The scandal was considered by many to be the biggest data leak in history, until this year 11.5 million leaked documents from Panamanian offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca uncovered the global tax havens of the rich and powerful.
A PwC spokesperson said that it’s Luxembourg branch ‘stands by the advice it provided to the clients in question’ and has worked in accordance with international tax laws.
“Following the discovery of breaches of confidentiality they were reported to the relevant authorities who decided to prosecute the two former PwC employees who took the documents and the journalist involved.
“PwC takes client confidentiality very seriously and regrets that these breaches occurred. PwC Luxembourg conducted a thorough review of its security systems and processes in 2012 and has taken steps to further reinforce its security measures to protect the confidentiality of its client information.
“Given this matter is now the subject of a criminal trial it would not be appropriate for us to comment further.”
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