(GUE/NGL MEPs from PANA committee at lunch with Professor Ronen Palan in International Politics at City University London)

The European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion (PANA) today discussed the role of intermediaries as revealed in the Panama Papers scandal.

The hearing heard testimonies from academics and European Banking Federation officials as well as from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Addressing the panel on the issue of tax havens, globalisation and the role of wealth managers, GUE/NGL MEP Miguel Viegas was adamant that “the capacity of tax administrations in EU member states must be reinforced so that they can prosecute illicit activities more effectively.”

Cypriot MEP Takis Hadjigeorgiou also intervened and queried:

“How can anyone establish and register a company without your name appearing anywhere? What other reasons can there be to justify this if it isn't to do with tax avoidance? Unless there're other reasons why we don't know?”

Meanwhile, Irish MEP Matt Carthy challenged the PwC representative on behalf of GUE/NGL about the role of the Big Four auditing firms – PwC, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and KPMG – in advising EU governments on tax issues and the potential conflict of interest issue that raises:

“In Ireland, PwC's managing partner has been involved in advising Google, Apple, Facebook and others on how to use the country as the centrepiece of their global tax avoidance strategies, including by setting up the corporate loophole; the ‘Double Irish’.”

“But this same leader of PwC is also the Chair of the American Chamber of Commerce's tax group in Ireland. In this role, PwC successfully ensured the withholding tax that required the 'Dutch Sandwich' to be used in conjunction with the Double Irish was scrapped,” Carthy added. 

“Of course there is also the role played by PwC in the LuxLeaks scandal. So in at least two member states of the EU, we can see that PwC has played a major role not only in facilitating massive tax avoidance by multinationals – but also in directly designing the whole system – even at the government level.”

“How can the Big Four justify the conflict of interest between advising multinationals on how to avoid paying tax whilst at the very same time, playing a major role in designing states’ tax laws?” he argued.

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