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A German arrest order for two Panamanian lawyers whose firm was at the center of an international tax evasion scandal faces a substantial obstacle: Panama’s constitution prohibits the extradition of its citizens.

Juergen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca are sought by Cologne prosecutors on charges of being an accessory to tax evasion and forming a criminal organization.  “They have constitutional protection,” Alvin Weeden, a lawyer in Panama, said Wednesday. “Technically, there’s no possibility.”

Mossack and Fonseca already face prosecution in Panama and are prohibited from leaving the country while out on bond after spending two months in jail. That case stems from allegations they helped create a corporation to hide money used for bribes by the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht as well as fallout from the so-called Panama Papers scandal.

The Panama Papers include a collection of 11 million secret financial documents leaked in 2016 that illustrated how some of the world’s richest people hide their money. It brought scrutiny to a number of world leaders and was a hit to Panama’s reputation.

Interpol’s office in Panama did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether it had received an alert from German authorities about the case in Germany against Mossack and Fonseca.

In a statement, Mossack and Fonseca said their firm had sold corporations to a German bank that later resold them to clients. They said they had nothing to do with subsequent transactions.

“If one these ultimate beneficiaries evaded taxes in their country or committed some other crime using a corporation created by us, that is totally out of our control and knowledge,” said the statement issued by their lawyer in Panama, Guillermina McDonald. “We follow all of the processes required by regulators of our industry in their moment.”

Mossack and Fonseca announced the closure of their offices in Panama and elsewhere in the world in March 2018.

In the statement Tuesday night, they said they were willing to continue collaborating with investigations in any part of the world. McDonald said she did not know if they would be willing to appear before German authorities. Mossack and Fonseca maintain the German case is part of continuing efforts by the European Union to discredit them. In February, the European Union again included Panama on a list of countries that are tax havens.


Ireland’s Supreme Court has ruled that bread sold by the fast food chain Subway contains so much sugar that it cannot be legally defined as bread.

The ruling came in a tax dispute brought by Bookfinders Ltd., an Irish Subway franchisee, which argued that some of its takeaway products - including teas, coffees and heated sandwiches - were not liable for value-added tax.

A panel of judges rejected the appeal Tuesday, ruling that the bread sold by Subway contains too much sugar to be categorized as a “staple food,” which is not taxed.

“There is no dispute that the bread supplied by Subway in its heated sandwiches has a sugar content of 10% of the weight of the flour included in the dough, and thus exceeds the 2% specified,” the judgement read.

The law makes a distinction between “bread as a staple food” and other baked goods “which are, or approach, confectionery or fancy baked goods,” the judgement said. Subway disagreed with the characterization in a statement.

“Subway’s bread is, of course, bread,” the company said in an email. “We have been baking fresh bread in our restaurants for more than three decades and our guests return each day for sandwiches made on bread that smells as good as it tastes.”

Bookfinders was appealing a 2006 decision by authorities who refused to refund value-added tax payments. Lower courts had dismissed the case before it reached the Supreme Court.

Subway said it was reviewing the latest tax ruling. It added that the decision was based on an outdated bread exemption set by the Irish government that was updated in 2012.




A European Union court on Wednesday delivered a hammer blow to the bloc’s attempts to rein in multinationals’ ability to strike special tax deals with individual EU countries when it ruled that Apple does not have to pay 13 billion euros ($15 billion) in back taxes to Ireland.

The EU Commission had claimed in 2016 that Apple had struck an illegal tax deal with Irish authorities that allowed it to pay extremely low rates. But the EU’s General Court said Wednesday that ”the Commission did not succeed in showing to the requisite legal standard that there was an advantage.”

“The Commission was wrong to declare” that Apple “had been granted a selective economic advantage and, by extension, state aid,” said the Luxembourg-based court, which is the second-highest in the EU.

The EU Commission had ordered Apple to pay for gross underpayment of tax on profits across the European bloc from 2003 to 2014. The commission said Apple used two shell companies in Ireland to report its Europe-wide profits at effective rates well under 1%.

In many cases, multinationals can pay taxes on the bulk of their revenue across the EU’s 27 countries in the one EU country where they have their regional headquarters. For Apple and many other big tech companies, that is Ireland. For small EU countries like Ireland, that helps attract international business and even a small amount of tax revenue is helpful for them. The net result, however, is that the companies often end up paying very low tax.

The ruling can only be appealed on points of law and the Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager said she will “reflect on possible next steps.”

The Irish government welcomed the ruling, saying “there was no special treatment provided” to the U.S. company. Apple likewise said it was pleased by the decision, arguing that the case is not about how much tax it pays, but in what country. Apple CEO Tim Cook had earlier called the EU demand for back taxes “total political crap.”

The ruling is an especially stinging defeat for Vestager, who has campaigned for years to root out special tax deals and better regulate the power of the big U.S. tech companies, including Google, Amazon and Facebook. Trump has referred to her as the “tax lady” who “really hates the U.S.”

Despite the setback, she vowed to carry on the fight. “The Commission will continue to look at aggressive tax planning measures under EU state aid rules to assess whether they result in illegal state aid,” she said.


The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide a case from Georgia about the reach of a federal computer hacking law.

The case involves Nathan Van Buren, who was a police sergeant in Cumming, Georgia. The FBI set up a sting operation to find out if Van Buren would provide law enforcement information in exchange for cash, and he was offered money in exchange for searching a Georgia license plate database.

Van Buren was ultimately convicted of fraud and violating the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Van Buren argued the law didn't apply because he accessed a database that he was authorized to access.



A Spanish court has partially accepted Google's appeal against a ruling that ordered it to erase news articles about a man accused of sexual abuse, but the new judgement said the company had to display the man's acquittal at the top of any search results.

A National Court decision Friday said that freedom of expression took precedence over personal data protection in this case. However, given the case's special circumstances, the person's acquittal must appear in first place in internet searches, it ruled.

In 2017, Spain's Data Protection Agency ruled in favor of a psychologist who was tried and acquitted on three counts of sexual abuse for which he faced a possible 27 years in prison.

The man, whose name was not released, applied to have Google's search engine erase 10 news articles relating to the case that appeared when his name was keyed in. The agency ordered eight story links to be blocked, saying the news was obsolete.

Google appealed, arguing that the articles were of public interest and access to them should be protected by free speech laws. It also maintained they were of current interest and not outdated.

Spain's privacy agency has long defended people's “right to be forgotten.” Its efforts triggered a landmark ruling in 2014 by Europe's highest court that said search engines must listen, and sometimes comply, when people ask for the removal of links to newspaper articles or other sites containing outdated or otherwise objectionable information about themselves.


Heathrow Airport’s plans to increase capacity of Europe’s biggest travel hub by over 50% were stalled Thursday when a British court said the government failed to consider its commitment to combat climate change when it approved the project.

The ruling throws in doubt the future of the 14 billion-pound ($18 billion) plan to build a third runway at Heathrow, the west London hub that already handles more than 1,300 flights a day.

While Heathrow officials said they planned to appeal, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government indicated it wouldn’t challenge the ruling by the Court of Appeal.

“We won!” said London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a long-time opponent of the project who joined other local officials and environmental groups in challenging the national government’s approval of Heathrow’s expansion plans.

At stake is a project that business groups and Heathrow officials argue is crucial for the British economy as the U.K. looks to increase links with countries from China to the United States after leaving the European Union. Heathrow has already reached the capacity of its current facilities, and a third runway is needed to serve the growing demands of travelers and international trade, they say.

Environmental campaigners, however, challenged the project because of concerns that a third runway would encourage increased air travel and the carbon emissions blamed for global warming. The British government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a signatory to the 2016 Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.


In a major legal defeat for the Russian government, a Dutch appeals court on Tuesday reinstated an international arbitration panel’s order that it should pay $50 billion compensation to shareholders in former oil company Yukos.

The ruling overturned a 2016 decision by The Hague District Court that quashed the compensation order on the grounds that the arbitration panel did not have jurisdiction because the case was based on an energy treaty that Russia had signed but not ratified.

The Hague Court of Appeal ruled that the 2016 decision “was not correct. That means that the arbitration order is in force again.”

“This is a victory for the rule of law. The independent courts of a democracy have shown their integrity and served justice. A brutal kleptocracy has been held to account,” Tim Osborne, the chief executive of GML, a company made up of Yukos shareholders, said in a statement.

The Russian Justice Ministry said in a statement after the verdict that Russia will appeal. It charged that the Hague appeals court “failed to take into account the illegitimate use by former Yukos shareholders of the Energy Charter Treaty that wasn’t ratified by the Russian federation.”

The arbitration panel had ruled that Moscow seized control of Yukos in 2003 by hammering the company with massive tax claims. The move was seen as an attempt to silence Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin.

The 2014 arbitration ruling said that Russia was not acting in good faith when it levied the massive claims against Yukos, even though some of the company’s tax arrangements might have been questionable.


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