UN rights expert deplores conviction of tax whistleblowers in LuxLeaks trial

30 June 2016

A United Nations independent human rights expert today deplored the conviction of two whistleblowers who revealed how tax avoidance and tax evasion occurred in Luxembourg banks in the so-called LuxLeaks scandal.

“Whistleblowers are heroes of our time and serve society and human rights,” said Alfred de Zayas, the UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.

“We seem to live in an upside-down world in which whistleblowers are convicted and those who loot society are not.”

Mr. de Zayas warned that so long as there are widespread tax avoidance, tax evasion and tax havens, States will not have the financial capacity to meet their human rights treaty obligations.

His comments follow the sentencing of two former PricewaterhouseCoopers employees to 12 and nine-month suspended sentences, respectively, for leaking documents revealing how Luxembourg granted lucrative tax breaks that saved firms including Apple, Ikea and Pepsi billions of dollars in taxes. The journalist who reported on the leaks was acquitted.

Parliaments should adopt robust legislation not only to protect whistleblowers but also to reward them for contributing to ethics and integrity, especially in a sector where professional secrecy is at a peak, the expert said, highlighting how the trial decision in the so-called LuxLeaks scandal may discourage individuals from reporting abuses.

In his upcoming report to the UN General Assembly to be presented in October 2016, the independent expert will address the adverse human rights impact of tax havens and tax evasion.

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