Neelie Croes on Apple
60 Rue Wiertz
September 23rd 2016
Last week we had the Apple-Tax ruling from Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition, in which she declared that because Apple and Ireland had an illegal sweetheart deal that amounted to state aid, the giant computer corporation now owed an estimated €13bn in back-taxes, plus interest (estimated at €6bn).
Oh, how the feathers flew in the cosy global corporate world and immediately, a ready army of high-powered cheerleaders were paraded before our media to scoff at Commissioner Vestager and her decision.
One of those who crowed loudest was one Neelie Kroes, and because she was Vestager’s immediate predecessor in the Commission, well, it caused a bit of a splash, didn’t it?
Neelie penned an article in The Guardian newspaper in which she questioned Vestager’s use of the ‘State Aid’ principle, accused her of overstepping the mark and called for all this to be handled in the usual fashion instead, behind luxurious closed doors in Brussels where the most select of the high-powered industry lobbyists get to tell the most select of the high-powered political elite in Brussels exactly what they want done and how they believe it can be done.
Of course Neelie was also protecting her own; she’s still a high-powered Dutch politician, still influential in the ruling People’s Party (think Fine Gael), and of course has her fingers in a number of corporate pies. Here – according to The Guardian – is a small list:
Neelie Kroes is:
· Special envoy for StartDelta;
· sits on the board of directors for Salesforce, a tech start-up development project run by the Dutch government;
· Serves as an advisor to Bank of America Merrill Lynch;
· Sits on the public policy board of taxi-hailing business Uber, a technology group headquartered in California (Uber uses subsidiaries in the Netherlands to shield its overseas income from United States taxes).
That in itself is enough to call into question any notion of objective criticism by Neelie Kroes. But then came what will now probably be known as the Bahama Papers, revelations this week by a group called the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ – the group who revealed the Panama Papers), and our Neelie gets a prominent mention. Seems she’s listed as a director of an offshore company in the Bahamas.
Keeping good company there, that’s for sure, the Bahamas described as ‘the Caribbean tax haven whose secrecy and tax structures have attracted multinational companies and criminals alike.’
EU rules require that European commissioners declare all their economic interests in the previous 10 years, including governing, supervisory and advisory positions in companies devoted to commercial and economic activities.
Questioned by the ICIJ, the Guardian and Dutch newspapers Trouw and Het Financieele Dagblad, Kroes ‘acknowledged that she did not disclose her connection to this company in her declarations of personal financial interests when she first became competition commissioner in 2004 or in later declarations as she continued serving as a high-level EU official.’
In its attack on Commissioner Vestager and her Apple-Tax ruling last week, Fine Gael made prominent use of the Neelie Kroes article, MEP Brian Hayes quoting her prominently and repeatedly.
I hope now that these new revelations and quotes on the same Neelie receive as much prominence.
Luke Ming Flanagan MEP.