GUE/NGL calls for European Parliament inquiry into Paradise Papers

GUE/NGL held a press conference on November 15 in Strasbourg to request a new Special Committee to be set up to investigate the Paradise Papers, and to call for the European Parliament to establish a permanent committee on investigations. The Left group MEPs remarked that the recommendations by the Panama Papers Inquiry Committee due to be voted at the December plenary are generally good. However, in order for them to be adopted, the outcome needs to be supported by all political groups.

Miguel Urban Crespo, GUE/NGL’s shadow rapporteur on the Panama Papers Inquiry Committee report, commented: “It’s a structural problem that requires a permanent Inquiry Committee.

“We hope that EPP – which includes members and allies which are implicated in the Paradise Papers scandal – does not oppose the formation of a new committee.

“What the Panama Papers show was that we lose over 1 billion euros every year due to the tax evasion and avoidance. This money could finance social policies that would allow us to get rid of austerity policies”, he said.

“We want to vote in favour of the recommendations of the PANA Inquiry Committee in December, but we need to be certain that we will go further in the fight against tax avoidance and tax evasion.”

Patrick Le Hyaric, GUE/NGL’s co-coordinator in the Panama Papers Inquiry Committee, said: “There’s been the particularly tragic case recently in Malta, and other journalists have been threatened as well.This shows the need to protect journalists and whistleblowers.

“We have to continue on reporting and denouncing tax havens. Competition on the basis of reducing tax on capital promotes the expansion of tax havens.”

Matt Carthy, GUE/NGL’s co-coordinator in the ‘Panama Papers’ Inquiry Committee, said: “In light of the new revelations in the Paradise Papers, GUE/NGL is calling on the other political groups in this Parliament to support the strongest possible outcome in the report of the Panama Papers inquiry committee that will be voted on next month.

“Given the scale of this new leak time, we are calling on the United Nations to convene a global summit in response to this latest leak in order to deal decisively, and at a global level, with financial secrecy.

“The Paradise Papers not only reveal the financial secrets of ultra-rich individuals – they also include revelations about the tax avoidance schemes of some of the wealthiest corporations in the world.

“This week in the Parliament we are voting on a resolution that criticices Malta for its failure to examine the Panama Papers revelations that implicated key political figures. But Malta is not the only state within the EU that can be accused of acting as a tax haven. We have the City of London and the British dependencies, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland and more.

“We need an end to the situation whereby EU membership seemingly gives you impunity when it comes to tax dodging.

“This is why I want to reiterate our call for a new inquiry committee to be established to examine the Paradise Papers revelations, and particularly the role of EU corporations, individuals and governments in tax dodging and financial crime.

“This Parliament needs a permanent committee for investigations. GUE/NGL initially made this proposal more than a year ago, and we welcome the growing support it is gaining.

“Most importantly, the Parliament needs far stronger powers of inquiry, including the power to compel witnesses and the production of documents.”

Takis Hadjigeorgiou, GUE/NGL substitute member in the Panama Papers’ Inquiry Committee closed the press conference by saying:

“We need a Permanent Committee. An ad-hoc committee was set up on the Panama Papers, but with the ‘Paradise Papers’ leak, we see that this is an underlying problem that should be dealt with by a Permanent Committee.”

“Tax havens give companies opportunities that are not available in the tax regimes where those companies undertake their activities.”

“However, Malta has been made into something of a scapegoat. If we only concentrate on Malta at the expense of other EU member states, we are missing the bigger picture,” he concluded.

NOTE: Under the European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, it is currently not possible to establish another Inquiry Committee into tax issues immediately; at least 12 months must pass before another inquiry committee can be established into the same topic. The Panama Papers inquiry’s mandate finishes on December 8, 2017. However, a Special Committee (which is the form the TAXE and TAX2 committees took) is possible. The proposal to expand the Parliament’s right of inquiry, and to establish a permanent committee on investigations can only be made a reality by an inter-institutional agreement between the Parliament with the Council and Commission.