For­mer EU Com­mis­sioner named in Ba­hamas leaks

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Anti-cor­rup­tion watch­dog Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional has urged the Euro­pean Union to take the lead in ef­forts to ex­pose those who rep­re­sent, or profit, from busi­nesses with se­cre­tive links to the world’s big­gest tax havens, as crit­i­cism mounted of a for­mer top EU of­fi­cial caught up in a widerang­ing doc­u­ment leak from the Ba­hamas.

Neelie Kroes, who used to lead the Euro­pean Commission’s pow­er­ful anti-trust unit be­tween 2004 and 2010, was one of the most high-pro­file names that emerged in a cache of doc­u­ments of the Ba­hama’s cor­po­rate reg­istry leaked Wed­nes­day by the In­ter­na­tional Con­sor­tium of In­ves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ists and me­dia part­ners.

The leak re­vealed the names of di­rec­tors and own­ers of more than 175,000 Ba­hamian com­pa­nies, trusts and foun­da­tions, rang­ing from prime min­is­ters and princes to con­victed felons. The dis­clo­sures fol­low the in­ter­na­tional uproar over the leak of the so-called “Panama Pa­pers” ear­lier this year that re­vealed de­tails on off­shore ac­counts that helped for­eign­ers shel­ter their wealth.

In the Ba­hamas leak, Kroes was re­vealed as di­rec­tor of one com­pany — Mint Hold­ings — that she had not de­clared when she be­came the EU’s Com­mis­sioner for Com­pe­ti­tion in 2004. Mint Hold­ings had been al­legedly set up from the United Arab Emi­rates, with the aim of help­ing to ac­quire the as­sets of en­ergy gi­ant En­ron, which sub­se­quently col­lapsed fol­low­ing a mas­sive ac­count­ing scan­dal.

Kroes, who be­came the com­mis­sioner re­spon­si­ble for dig­i­tal mat­ters be­tween 2010 and 2014, said she did not de­clare her role be­cause the com­pany never be­came op­er­a­tional, ac­cord­ing to the ICIJ.

The Dutch politi­cian re­cently came un­der fire for pub­licly crit­i­ciz­ing the EU’s re­cent anti-trust ac­tion against Ire­land, when Brus­sels or­dered the coun­try to re­cover some €13 bil­lion in taxes from Ap­ple. She is cur­rently a paid ad­viser to Uber and Bank of Amer­ica.

Trans­parency’s EU di­rec­tor Carl Dolan said Kroes’s links to Mint “would have re­mained se­cret were it not for a leak,” as the or­ga­ni­za­tion called on the EU to toughen up its anti-money laun­der­ing mea­sures and to roll-out pub­lic reg­is­ters of those who stand to profit from stakes in off­shore com­pa­nies.

“That is why it is cru­cial to have pub­lic data­bases of com­pany own­er­ship, which civil so­ci­ety, jour­nal­ists, and in­deed the Commission it­self, can use to check for po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­est,” he said.

Kroes is the lat­est lead­ing of­fi­cial at the EU’s ex­ec­u­tive arm to come un­der fire. For­mer Commission pres­i­dent Jose Manuel Bar­roso has faced a heap of crit­i­cism for tak­ing a job at Gold­man Sachs and for his role in the bank’s ne­go­ti­a­tions over Bri­tain’s exit from the EU.

EU law­mak­ers joined the cho­rus of crit­i­cism yes­ter­day, with a se­nior mem­ber of par­lia­ment’s money laun­der­ing and tax eva­sion probe tak­ing a swipe at Kroes, Bar­roso and the en­tire EU ex­ec­u­tive.

“The Euro­pean Commission too of­ten means Euro­pean Cor­rup­tion. It is this Euro­pean Union of big busi­ness and ruth­less theft of Brus­sels oli­garchs which peo­ple dis­dain. The very same politi­cians that preach to our peo­ple to cut back on wages, pen­sions and pub­lic ser­vices join shady crim­i­nals in the tril­lion euro in­dus­try of tax dodg­ing, money laun­der­ing and cor­rup­tion,” said left­wing Ger­man law­maker, Fabio De Masi.

Neelie Kroes

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