by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph:
Europe’s Competition Directorate commands the shock troops of the EU power structure. Ensconced in its fortress at Place Madou, it can dispatch swat teams on corporate dawn raids across Europe without a search warrant.
It operates outside the normal judicial control that we take for granted in a developed democracy. The US Justice Department could never dream of acting in such a fashion.
Known as ‘DG Comp’, it acts as judge, jury, and executioner, and can in effect impose fines large enough to constitute criminal sanctions, but without the due process protection of criminal law. It misused evidence so badly in pursuit of the US chipmaker Intel that the company alleged a violation of human rights.
Apple is just the latest of the great US digital companies to face this Star Chamber. It has vowed to appeal the monster €13bn fine handed down from Brussels this week for violation of EU state aid rules, but the only recourse is the European Court of Justice. This is usually a forlorn ritual. The ECJ is a political body, the enforcer of the EU’s teleological doctrines. It ratifies executive power.
We can mostly agree that Apple, Google, Starbucks, and others have gamed the international system, finding legal loopholes to whittle down their tax liabilities and enrich shareholders at the expense of society. It is such moral conduct that has driven wealth inequality to alarming levels, and provoked a potent backlash against globalisation.
But the ‘Double Irish’ or the ‘Dutch Sandwich’ and other such tax avoidance schemes are being phased out systematically by the G20 and by a series of tightening rules from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The global machinery of “profit shifting” will face a new regime by 2018.
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