(Photo of Antoine Deltour Courtesy of Australian Journalist Steve Pennells)
A young French auditor who blew the whistle on secret tax deals between Luxembourg and Apple, Starbucks, and several powerful Canadian multinationals is going to trial next week. And he’s got a message for Canada.
"Canadians deserve to know to what extent multinationals are avoiding taxation,” Antoine Deltour told Canadians for Tax Fairness. “Big corporations often reach effective tax rates close to 0% while small businesses face full corporate tax rates. It's a matter of loyalty. Multinationals need a full range of public utilities and services, from roads to a skilled workforce. Yet, they avoid their contribution to it. It is hard to comprehend why this happens."
Deltour and his supporters are asking Canadians to sign a petition in his support. “It is important to show the Luxembourg courts that citizens from all over the world – including Canada - are worried about multinational tax dodging,” he says.
He admits he copied unencrypted tax files from PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC)in 2010. The information contained in those files became known as LuxLeaks. They blew the lid off the tax dodging practices of the world’s most powerful multinationals. And although governments, including Canada’s, now acknowledge the breadth of the problem, tax dodging continues to flourish.
Six years later, the only people to be charged are Deltour, a second auditor, and a French journalist. The documents show a global trail of corporate secrecy. But not one multinational faces charges in any country. Meanwhile, 29-year-old Deltour could face up to 10 years in jail.
“Secrecy and lack of transparency are a very real,” says C4TF’s Dennis Howlett from New York where he is attending meetings on global efforts to halt tax dodging. “We haven’t been able to count on our political leaders to take on this crime. Whistleblowers and those who leak data are quiet heroes doing the public a great service."
It is a matter of priorities, Howlett says. “There are people making a lot of money enabling criminals and terrorists with their secret tax evasion and money laundering. They are guilty of aiding and abetting criminal activity. They are the ones who should be facing the courts.”
In the meantime, the whistle blower, who describes himself as a “normal guy” is facing the fight of his life. He says abided the law his whole life. But the issue became bigger than his own safety.
“I remember that I was nervous,” he said. “I was aware that these documents were important, that’s why I didn’t want to keep them to myself because I didn’t have the right tools to find out what the cache of files disclosed about these practices. He feels the reactions to LuxLeaks constitute a “justification of what I did.”
Some powerful politicians appear to agree – even if not intentionally. Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna admitted he was astounded by the revelations that such deals were happening in his country. He described LuxLeaks as a “game changer” that led EU regulators to expand a probe into tax deals across the 28-nation bloc. The European Parliament has set up a special committee to investigate tax deals by EU governments. The UN, IMF and OECD have agreed to increase co-operation on tax issues. And the Canada Revenue Agency has committed $444M to increase capacity to fight tax dodging.
You can signal your support of Antoine Deltour here.
The trial begins in Luxembourg on April 26 and is scheduled to run for five days.