The European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of Raphael Halet, a former employee of accounting firm PwC, saying his 2016 conviction for leaking data about Luxembourg’s tax deals with large corporations violated his right to freedom of expression.1 Data leaked by Halet and others was central to the high-profile LuxLeaks investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2014, helping to expose the industrial scale on which Luxembourg tax authorities were rubber-stamping corporate tax abuse schemes and draining huge amounts of revenue from the public coffers of other countries.2 According to a 2020 study, Luxembourg cost EU countries over $12 billion in lost corporate tax a year from just US firms shifting profits into the tax haven. For each additional $1 Luxembourg collected from US firms, the EU lost $32.3
Welcoming the ruling, Alex Cobham, chief executive at the Tax Justice Network, said:
“We welcome the court’s recognition that Luxembourg’s intimidation of whistleblowers is a violation of human rights and unbefitting of a democracy. When Raphael Halet4 helped show the world that Luxembourg’s tax authority and PwC were paving the way for the biggest corporations to cheat taxpayers out of billions, Luxembourg’s response was to go after him, instead of the tax abusers. Luxembourg was sending a message to anybody who’d dare shed light on its destructive tax abuse machine. Now the European Court of Human Rights has sent one right back.
“The European Court of Human Right’s ruling is urgent now more than ever following the European Court of Justice’s baffling decision last year to ban some of Europe’s most powerful anti-money laundering measures.5 LuxLeaks, Panama Papers and other investigations helped bring about transparency measures that make essential information about corporations and their owners public – something that journalists previously had to risk their lives for. But the Court of Justice shut those measures down after ruling in favour of a plaintiff who has now been revealed to be connected to Russian tycoons and to have over 100 companies spread across secrecy havens.6 Without these measures, we are now all once again desperately reliant on brave whisteblowers like Raphael, who Luxembourg tried to silence, to hold the rich and powerful accountable.”
Notes to editor
- Read more about the ruling here.
- More information about the LuxLeaks is available here.
- Tax Justice Network analysis revealed in 2020 that the EU loses over $27 billion in corporate tax a year to UK, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Netherlands, collectively known as the “axis of avoidance”. Read the analysis here.
- Watch Raphael Halet’s statement on the ruling here.
- More information about the European Court of Justice’s barring of beneficial ownership registers is available here.
- Read the OCCRP’s investigation of the plaintiff here.