Apple ‘Picked on’ by Europe, Irish Billionaire O’Brien Says

Apple 'Picked On' by Europe: Digicel's O'Brien
  • European authorities target Apple in tax loopholes crackdown
  • Brussels ‘out of control,’ Digicel Chairman O’Brien says

Apple Inc. shouldn’t be punished for its tax arrangements in Ireland, Denis O’Brien, one of the country’s richest men, said after European authorities went after the company in a record crackdown on fiscal loopholes.

The European Commission ruled last month that Apple should pay as much as $14.5 billion in back taxes to Ireland, claiming the country breached EU state-aid rules to attract investment from the world’s wealthiest company. Apple and the Irish government plan to appeal the ruling, saying they did nothing wrong.

“Apple played by the rules,”  O’Brien, chairman of mobile carrier Digicel Group Ltd., said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Vonnie Quinn in New York on Tuesday. “Brussels is out of control in terms of the federalism agenda.”

The final amount payable could be as much as $19 billion, the largest tax penalty in a three-year EU campaign against corporate tax avoidance. Ireland allowed Apple to pay an effective corporate tax rate of 1 percent on its European profits in 2003 down to 0.005 percent in 2014, according to EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, figures disputed by the company. The tax probe came after the U.S. Senate “tipped us off” about the iPhone maker’s practices, Vestager said this month.

“Vestager just picked on them because they are one of the biggest brands and most valuable companies in the world and said ‘we’re going to try something here,” O’Brien said. “I don’t believe it’s going to succeed.”

Dubliner O’Brien is worth $3.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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