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Margrethe Vestager, scourge of Apple, is going after more multinationals

Late last week, 185 American CEOs asked German chancellor Angela Merkel to intervene in Vestager’s €13 billion Apple tax ruling.

European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager during her Apple ruling.
European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager during her Apple ruling.
Image: Virginia Mayo/PA

EU COMPETITION COMMISSIONER Margrethe Vestager has promised to investigate more US multinationals, in the wake of her momentous finding that Ireland granted Apple billions in illegal state aid.

Late last week, 185 American CEOs asked German chancellor Angela Merkel to intervene in the Apple tax ruling, which ordered the largest corporation in the world to repay €13 billion in back taxes to the Irish exchequer.

The Government – supported by some other political parties – has decided to appeal the ruling, on the basis that it involved an incursion into Ireland’s sovereignty, and a threat to our corporate tax regime.

The decision to forgo the €13 billion featured heavily in protests in Dublin city centre last Saturday, and some economists have asked whether other US companies benefited from sweetheart deals in Ireland.

Commissioner Vestager, for one, believes that other companies may need to be investigated. Asked whether she will check Apple’s rivals she said: “I will”. She added:

I keep thinking about all the CEOs who just make sure that their companies do pay their taxes. They exist too.

Several other large multinationals pay very little tax in Ireland.

The accounts for Ritea Limited, which operates Starbucks in this country, shows the company made a profit of over €1 million for the 12 months up to July 26, 2015 — but paid no tax for the period.

Starbucks paid €4,196 in Irish corporation tax in 2014, after two years of making no contribution to the State’s coffers.

Superheroine

Last Wednesday, MEPS hailed EU anti-trust commissioner Margaret Vestager as a “superheroine” for handing US tech giant Apple a €13 billion tax bill in Ireland.

For more than one hour during a debate about her 30 August ruling, almost all of the 30 MEPs who took the floor congratulated Vestager, a Danish politician with a steely reputation who smiled, took notes with a pink pen and thanked the speakers.

“When I was young in the 1970s, there was a television series, ‘the $6 million man,’” Dutch liberal politician Cora van Nieuwenhuizen told her.

This superhero has been surpassed by a superheroine, the €13 billion commissioner!

Philippe Lamberts, the Belgian co-president of the Green Party, also offered effusive praise.

As an ecologist, I am opposed to human cloning, and yet, when I see you, I really want multiple Margaret Vestagers’.

More compliments flowed from politicians like French socialist Pervenche Beres, who made her point raising her iPhone 6. She said:

We are all drugged, intoxicated by these machines.

“However, we are overjoyed that you have so severely punished this company.”

German ecologist Sven Giegold chimed in, saying: “We should give you a prize.”

The daughter of two Lutheran ministers, Vestager is known for her no-nonsense style. And those who know her warn that she is a formidable negotiator who never gives up.

Sometimes nicknamed back home Margrethe III, an allusion to Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II, she became her country’s first woman minister, at the age of 29, when she was named in 1998 to the education and ecclesiastical affairs portfolio.

And under her leadership, her party doubled its performance in the 2011 parliamentary elections.

With reporting from AFP. - © AFP, 2016

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