The European Parliament (EP) has condemned as ‘inadmissible’ a refusal by global firm Baker McKenzie and offshore firm Appleby to attend a hearing surrounding the Paradise Papers scandal.
The EP’s special committee on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance discussed the after-effects from the Paradise Papers scandal yesterday, 21 June.
Experts, journalists and company representatives of Nike and McDonalds were among attendees who discussed the effects on policy, law and company decisions since the scandal in which the tax affairs of swathes of wealthy individuals were exposed.
The hearing was organised around two panels, the first dealing with the possible loopholes in EU tax legislation, the second on aggressive tax planning within the EU.
According to an EP briefing note, published on Friday 22 June, committee chair Petr Ježek ‘expressed consternation’ that ‘intermediaries Appleby, and Baker McKenzie had, for their part, refused to attend the hearing’. Jezek pointed out that refusals to appear before a parliamentary body are ‘inadmissible’ and ‘go against the transparency that should be part of the core values of any company.’
In November last year Appleby insisted it had done nothing unlawful or wrong in assisting wealthy and powerful clients to manage their tax affairs.
The unauthorised publication of client documents, coined the Paradise Papers leak, contained 13.4m documents, reportedly mostly from Appleby.
A spokesperson for Baker McKenzie said: ’We appreciated the invitation and the importance of the issues discussed. As a law firm, we advise our clients to comply with the law in accordance with our professional obligations. These obligations prevent us from commenting publicly on matters relating to clients. For this reason, we respectfully declined the invitation.’