As published on luxtimes.lu, Wednesday 19 April, 2023.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was grilled in the European Parliament on Wednesday by a left wing lawmaker who blasted the country's reputation for hiding the assets of the rich and famous.
"Mr Bettel, I have a riddle for you: what do Tiger Woods, Brad Pitt, the Hermès family, Shakira, the Prince of Saudi Arabia, Bernard Arnault, the Italian mafia or the Russian underworld have in common?," Manon Aubry, co-president of the Left group in the European Parliament, asked Bettel during a plenary session.
"They all have, one has to say, an amazing passion for your country, Luxembourg," Aubry continued. She then showed an image of a building allegedly located on rue Eugene Ruppert in Luxembourg City, which, according to Aubry, is home to over 1,800 shell companies that are used for tax evasion.
"The reality is, Mr Bettel, you are the head of a country that is a tax haven, a paradise that organises theft in an organised gang," the French left-wing lawmaker of La France Insoumise told Luxembourg's head of government.
Bettel attended a session of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday where he gave a speech on the future of Europe, warning against protectionism and closed borders.
In response to the remarks, Bettel defended the country's efforts to combat tax evasion, saying Luxembourg had ratified every international anti tax-avoidance initiative.
"I had the same scenario a few years ago but it came from the other extreme, it was Mrs Le Pen," he said. “Today, Mrs. Le Pen is not there and Mrs Aubry asked me a riddle. Who has been saying the same thing as Mrs Le Pen for four years? It's Madame Aubry," Bettel quipped.
"Luxembourg is part of the solution to the fight against tax evasion, we haven't been the problem for years, so it would be important to get up-to-date," he said.
MEPs have repeatedly singled out Luxembourg, together with other EU countries like Ireland, the Netherlands and Cyprus, for its tax practices. The head of EU Parliament's tax subcommittee said last year when visiting Luxembourg he thought the country was still a tax haven after talking to professionals in the tax advisory industry and officials of the local tax office.