• Prosecutor wants 18-month terms in case that led to new
  • French trio, including a journalist, also face fines in trial

The two whistleblowers whose actions during their employment with PricewaterhouseCoopers helped unleash a global scandal over generous tax deals for hundreds of companies face fines and a prison sentence.

Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet should get a prison term of up to 18 months, possibly deferred, and pay a financial penalty for stealing documents that were “highly confidential,” prosecutor David Lentz told a Luxembourg court Tuesday. Edouard Perrin, a journalist accused of assisting Halet, should also get a prison sentence and fine for having gone beyond what is normal freedom of expression.

The charges could have brought sentences of as long as 10 years. In his final pleadings after seven days of court hearings, Lentz said the actions of the accused had contributed to a wider debate, that some tax arrangements could be seen as questionable, and Perrin was doing his job by querying the situations. The accused men expressed surprise that the prosecutor would seek prison sentences.

“It’s as if the prosecutor had not been sitting through this trial,” Perrin, 44, told journalists after the hearing. “He blatantly ignored our pleadings. I didn’t expect any leniency, but I am rather surprised by the prosecutor’s requests.”

Perrin, a French citizen, was charged in April 2015 with being the accomplice of Halet, an ex-PwC staffer who is accused of stealing 16 corporate tax returns from the accounting firm and giving them to the journalist. Perrin is also accused of having urged Halet to search for specific documents, a charge both men rejected during hearings as untrue.

Deltour, 30, is the main source behind what became known as LuxLeaks, the revelations in 2014 of detailed documents showing how companies, including Walt Disney Co., Microsoft Corp.’s Skype and PepsiCo Inc., moved money around the globe to avoid taxes. During the trial, Deltour said he wasn’t fully aware of what he had discovered when he copied a folder of about 45,000 pages detailing confidential tax agreements on the eve of his departure from PwC in 2010.

Deltour and Halet, 39, are charged with “domestic theft, violation of professional secrecy, violation of business secrets, laundering and fraudulent access to a system of automatic data treatment.”

The LuxLeaks revelations sped beyond Luxembourg, causing European Union regulators to expand a tax-subsidy probe and propose new laws to fight corporate tax dodging, while EU lawmakers created a special committee to probe fiscal deals across the 28-nation bloc.

Global attention has in the past few months switched to the discovery of documents known as the Panama Papers. The same group of investigative journalists who published the LuxLeaks data wrote stories and distributed information from a Panamanian law firm that disclosed how billions of dollars are hidden in tax havens. The group on Monday released on an online searchable database of more than 200,000 Panamanian shell companies.

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