Jim Armitage: PwC whistleblower deserves a medal, not a jail sentence
Outlook PwC’s request the Luxembourg authorities prosecute the whistleblower who lifted the lid on the vast extent of tax avoidance there is ill-judged and unpalatable.
Antoine Deltour did the world a service in leaking the details of thousands of PWC-arranged tax deals in the tiny country.
The result is likely to be a significant crackdown on the behaviour of tax havens around the world. Mr Deltour’s revelations have already shaken the Luxembourg political class, forcing it to consider reforming its attitude on the issue, and has led to the justifiable humbling of PwC’s top brass before MPs in Westminster, outraged at what was a systemic model of tax avoidance orchestrated by one of the world’s biggest accountancy firms.
If a leak were ever in the public interest, it was this one. Sure, we all knew Luxembourg was a tax haven, and those in the accounting profession may not have been surprised by the LuxLeaks revelations, but few outside that amoral bubble appreciated the true extent of the problem.
PwC’s official complaint, which triggered the charges for theft and violation of professional secrecy looks arrogant and firmly in the camp of Big Bad Business. It should urgently reconsider its call.
Mr Deltour this week spoke on French TV about how his motivation was his conscience, rather than any profit-making plan. Cynics may be surprised by this: but they should not be. These pages work with whistleblowers on a regular basis, and it is extremely rare that they have any financial motivation. A grudge, perhaps, but generally an anger at their employer’s behaviour. And, for the most part, they find it impossible, to get another job anywhere near equivalent to the one they have left.
Mr Deltour should be given Luxembourg’s equivalent of the Legion d’honneur, not the potential 10-year jail sentence his lawyer says he faces.