Whistleblower Who Exposed PwC Tax Evasion Schemes Vindicated
Tax auditor Raphaël Halet leaked over 28,000 documents outlining schemes created by the Luxembourg offices of global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to help companies like Apple, Heinz and Pepsi avoid paying taxes. In 2016, local courts found Halet guilty of stealing documents. In 2023, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Halet was a whistleblower rather than a criminal.
“We welcome the court’s recognition that Luxembourg’s intimidation of whistleblowers is a violation of human rights and unbefitting of a democracy. 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.” – Alex Cobham, chief executive at Tax Justice Network
Raphaël Halet, an accountant for global auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Luxembourg, helped his colleague Antoine Deltour leak 28,000 documents in 2014 showing how PwC was helping multinationals avoid paying taxes. The ‘LuxLeaks’ documents were distributed to journalists around the world with the help of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
LuxLeaks showed that PwC helped over 340 international companies such as Amazon, JP Morgan and Procter & Gamble move their headquarters to the tiny country of Luxembourg, a tax haven. Citizens for Tax Justice estimates that $95 billion in profits from overseas operations of U.S. corporations were channeled through Luxembourg in 2012, for which the companies paid tax rates as low as 1 percent or less.
“The real story is about tax evasion and why we’re being told our schools and hospitals don’t have enough money.” - Raphaël Halet, former PwC employee and LuxLeaks whistleblower.
PwC sued Deltour and Halet in Luxembourg for theft of the LuxLeaks documents. The Luxembourg District Court ruled in favor of the auditing firm in 2016 and sentenced Deltour and Halet to 12 months and 9 months in prison respectively and imposed symbolic fines of €1,500 and €1,000. Deltour’s conviction was quashed on appeal and Halet’s prison sentence was suspended but not overturned.
European Court of Human Rights
Halet lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights on May 7, 2018, stating that the court ruling in Luxembourg had violated his right to freedom of expression. He also noted that the ruling also seriously undermined the effectiveness of whistleblower protection guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights.
On February 2, 2023, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of Halet by a vote of 12 to 5, stating that the public interest in leaking the documents outlining tax dodging schemes in Luxembourg outweighed the damage to PwC. The court also ordered the government of Luxembourg to pay Halet €55,000 euros together with his legal costs.
“Our reputation depends on integrity and on assisting our stakeholders achieve high quality, sustainable value. We encourage the development of tax and legal systems in line with the public interest and offer our expertise to help identify ways in which these systems can deliver better outcomes for society.” - Brad Silver, PwC managing partner global tax & legal services.
This is #74 in our series of Instagram infographics on resistance against corporate power.
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