A cache of 1.3 million leaked files from tax haven Bahamas revealed that former EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes responsible for Europe’s antitrust watchdog was named as director of an offshore company. She was recruited by United Arab Emirates, which intended to snap up the international assets of the energy company Enron in a $7bn (£5.4bn) deal.
Dutch NeelieKroes, now 75, was EU commissioner from 2004 until 2014, initially overseeing the powerful competition directorate and then Europe’s digital agenda. She was forbidden by the commissioners’ code of conduct to hold any outside directorships while in the roles. The code states: “Commissioners may not engage in any other professional activity, whether gainful or not.”
Kroes was also obliged to make a full declaration of her previous financial and corporate interests, stretching back 10 years. She may have breached both of those rules.
The Bahamasleaks data was received by Süddeutsche Zeitung, the German newspaper behind the Panama Papers, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington.
“For years, Neelie Kroes traveled Europe as one of the continent’s senior officials, warning big corporations that they couldn’t “run away” from the European Union’s rules. The Dutch politician sympathized with average citizens who worried they’d been left to pay the bills “as infringers cream off the extra profits.”
As the EU’s commissioner for competition policy from 2004 until 2010, she was Europe’s top corporate enforcer and made Forbes magazine’s annual list of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” five times.
What Kroes never told audiences – and didn’t tell European Commission officials in mandatory disclosures – was that she had been listed as a director of an offshore company in the Bahamas, the Caribbean tax haven whose secrecy and tax structures have attracted multinational companies and criminals alike.
Kroes was listed as director of a Bahamian company from 2000 to 2009, according to documents reviewed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Kroes, through a lawyer, told ICIJ and media partners that she did not declare her directorship of the company because it was never operational. Kroes’ lawyer blamed her appearance on company records as “a clerical oversight which was not corrected until 2009.” Her lawyer said the company, set up through a Jordanian businessman and friend of Kroes, had been created to investigate the possibility of raising money to purchase assets – worth more than $6 billion – from Enron Corp., the American energy giant. The deal never came off, and Enron later collapsed amid a massive accounting scandal.
Emily O’Reilly, the European Ombudsman with powers to investigate alleged breaches of EU rules and procedures, did not comment on the Kroes’ case but said: “When the rules are breached, whether accidentally or otherwise, the negative impression it leaves with the public tends to resonate more strongly than any positive counter steps subsequently undertaken.” (via International Consortium of Investigative Journalism)
“Within two years of leaving the commission, however, she has joined three US companies. She is a special adviser to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a full board director at the customer data firm Salesforce, and a policy adviser to the taxi hailing company Uber, which shelters its international revenues from tax through the Netherlands.”
Raising a finger to EU’s poor, showing the offshore way
Details of Kroes’ link to the offshore company are among the revelations found in a new leak of documents, received by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with ICIJ, that disclose details behind companies incorporated in the Bahamas. The cache of 1.3 million files from the island nation’s corporate registry provides names of directors and some owners of more than 175,000 Bahamian companies, trusts and foundations registered between 1990 and early 2016.
Key findings of BahamasLeaks
- Millions of leaked files from two financial service providers, a private bank in Jersey and the Bahamas corporate registry reveal how tax havens around the world are used to hide riches.
- Government officials and their families and associates in China, Azerbaijan, Russia, Canada, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Mongolia and other countries have embraced the use of covert companies and bank accounts.
- The mega-rich use complex offshore structures to own mansions, yachts, art masterpieces and other assets, gaining tax advantages and anonymity not available to average people.
- Many of the world’s top’s banks – including UBS, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank – have aggressively worked to provide their customers with secrecy-cloaked companies in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore hideaways.
The new information reveals previously unknown or little-reported connections to companies owned or run by current or former politicians from the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
PS it is utterly odd, than when people are being caught in CDs with Swiss bank accounts or offshore companies they love to claim that “it was a friend, who… put the money in my account, my name in company’s directorship” and @@ like that.
In Greece we have a saying: “One should be careful where he puts his signature and his xxxxx”