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December 21, 2015

Editor’s letter: Once again, a whistle-blower

We are heading towards that time of the year when everyone looks in the rear-view mirror and reflects on the personal achievements, if any, of the last twelve months.

At a collective level, publications of all kinds put together a list of people they deem have made a difference in their areas of expertise or influence.

Our accountancy news desk does the same and sister titles, The Accountant and International Accounting Bulletin, publish what we have traditionally called the Power 50 list.

This year, 40 of the entries have been picked by readers of our publications through a transparent voting process.

The other 10, can be selected from our 25 editorial picks: organisations and individuals who our editorial team thought they have been a force for good in the accountancy industry this year.

Among those is the LuxLeaks whistle-blower Antoine Deltour. The so-called LuxLeaks created a financial and political earthquake in late 2014, whose aftershocks are still today being felt.

Deltour, a junior accountant at PwC’s practice in Luxembourg, opened a can of worms when he accidentally came across a stack of online files: the LuxLeaks.

Those files documented how multinationals used Luxembourg to reduce their tax bill thanks to sweetheart deals reached with the then Junker-led government.

According to Deltour’s account, he was searching for training documents in a shared drive when he discovered the files.

In order to spark public debate on tax avoidance issues, he decided to blow the whistle and share the LuxLeaks with a French journalist.

However, according to Deltour’s version, he gave instructions that the names of the clients and the auditor shouldn’t be disclosed. Deltour faces now several charges which might carry jail time.

That’s a cruel irony, particularly for someone who has stood up to defend the public interest, a value the accountancy profession has arrogated for itself.

Deltour’s commitment to ethics is exemplary and accountants in all jurisdictions should be inspired by the courageous actions of this young professional.

In the UK, at least, his whistle-blowing inspired the Parliament. In February the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) select committee launched an inquiry on the role of large accountancy firm in tax avoidance.

The conclusion was clear for the then PAC chair, Margaret Hodge: "We believe that PwC’s activities represent nothing short of the promotion of tax avoidance on an industrial scale.

"Contrary to its denials, the tax arrangements PwC promotes, based on artificially diverting profits to Luxembourg through intra-company loans, bear all the characteristics of a mass-marketed tax avoidance scheme."

Similarly, the European Parliament awarded Deltour its European Citizens’ Prize in June. He was also nominated for the 2015 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, awarded by the same institution.

However, a more vocal support from the accountancy profession is missing. It’s never too late, though. Our readers can visit the website https://support-antoine.org/en to find out more about this brave whistle-blower.

Related stories

Power 50: editorial picks

2015 Timetric Accountancy Power 50

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